Although much has been written about the rapid growth of COVID-19 worldwide and how it is transforming everyday life, there has been relatively little discussion about where it will lead us in the longer term.
As global leaders prepare their response strategies, there is significant value in considering the second-order consequences of this pandemic. While these less immediate implications may be difficult to predict with certainty, thinking through possible scenarios will help us prepare for any developments.
Paradigm shift for security
In the field of security, there are three major changing issues that require careful analysis.
Return to work
The immediate goal of every business affected by quarantine and health problems, after employee safety, is to return to full productivity as soon as possible. This is a clear priority for security leaders today, as responsibilities cover not only the length of time employees are gone, but also how they will act safely once they return. This marks a key change from the pre-COVID situation, in which disease prevention was generally not even in their view.
The safe reintegration of employees into the workplace requires several steps. First and foremost is a reinvention of cleanliness benchmarks. Changing behaviour to frequent hand washing, thorough cleaning, suspension of flexible desks and even improving air circulation and filtration systems will be key aspects. Commonly used utilities, such as doors and lifts, should be as free of physical contact as possible to prevent the spread of germs.
It will also be important to cause cultural and behavioral changes to stop the spread of COVID-19, such as the application of social distance guidelines - especially in industrial or storage facilities with predictable structural and movement patterns.
Finally, security must contribute to the monitoring of employee health. Many companies are already considering or implementing mandatory employee temperature measurement when entering the buildings, and others are using the expertise of security investigation teams to track contacts for confirmed cases of contamination.
Do more with less
With a slowdown in economic growth, companies will move from prosperity to austerity. While security teams may be budgeted for a new technology to combat COVID-19, the cuts will inevitably occur elsewhere. The main focus for security leaders should be on the effectiveness of leadership to maintain existing levels of protection with fewer resources. However, reducing resources does not mean only maintaining this level of performance. Strategic leaders can treat this period as a unique opportunity to review outdated aspects of their operations and adopt new, more efficient technologies.
How? Security operations centers will monitor multiple rooms with fewer people, using advanced video analysis to find new ways to alarm and eliminate unwanted alarms. Virtual passages, based on video cameras, will replace expensive patrols with staff. And as artificial intelligence systems, which detect security incidents at superhuman speeds, become available, they will release the most valuable assets of security teams - their people - to do what they do best: respond quickly and decisively.
A constant pattern in past resource reduction situations has been the high desire to increase transparency in organizational spending patterns. Get ready to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of new and existing instruments, and give priority to what is strictly necessary in relation to where you can proactively take new approaches to simplify operations.
The culture of germs as a new culture of terrorism
The most significant change in the post-COVID-19 macro threat environment is the sudden focus on biological threats. In the same way that the 9/11 attacks changed the culture of security and expanded the role of government through the Homeland Security departments, there will be a broad shift towards the establishment of preparedness mechanisms that:
- reduce the chance of a pandemic happening again and
- helps us to respond more efficiently if and when it happens.
The response to the 2003 SARS epidemic in Asia is a useful comparison, both because of its biological similarity to the current coronavirus and the panic it has caused in the affected countries. SARS originated in late 2002 and spread rapidly in Asia until mid-2003. It infected 8,422 people and killed 916 - an 11 percent mortality rate. With this rate is higher than currently estimated for COVID-19, it has cleverly elicited drastic responses from affected governments and citizens, many of which are still visible today.
In the immediate aftermath of SARS, Singapore, Japan and China installed thermal chambers at airports and checkpoints to detect fevers. There has also been a cultural shift towards wearing masks in public, as a way for people to protect each other and show solidarity. Today, based on this experience, many Asian countries stand out for their aggressive response to the COVID pandemic.
Singapore has implemented an application that uses Bluetooth and location services to track anyone who comes in contact with an infected person, to contact those at risk retroactively. South Korea has used surveillance camera footage, credit card transactions and phone location data to help track both contacts and quarantine. China has instituted mandatory temperature projections on shops, apartment buildings and offices and links thermal cameras readings to identities through facial recognition to track who is infected.
This inevitably raises a question of confidentiality: how much are we willing to sacrifice to combat these threats more effectively?
In Romania, the management of physical security risk is regulated by law, the application being mandatory. The question arises to what extent the legal provisions are still relevant, which must be modified in the practice and in the law enforcement mechanism to ensure effectiveness in the context of the pandemic. The enforcement of the emergency situation, as well as the alert situation significantly changed the context for the vast majority of organizations that should have ensured the review of physical security risk analyses. Crime has also changed, and the range of threats has diversified, according to the Interpol and Europol reports. Security measures are diversifying, technology overcoming the barrier between security and operational, and security and intervention services are changing their activity in the context of COVID 19.