The world’s raging coronavirus pandemic has forced those in the public transportation sector into a difficult period of dramatic decision making. They must balance their national or local remit to provide public transportation services with the need to meet the ever-changing regulations and requirements placed upon them as a result of COVID-19. This sector is a critical enabler for economic revival and the overall survival of business entities whilst at the same time it is made up of legal and fiscal entities subject to similar economic pressures of lower sales and restrictions on their employees and customers.
Over the years, we have had to deal with terrorist incidents that hit public transport with bombs, chemical poisoning and shooting or assaulting drivers/pilots. Common to all these events is that they were carried out by individuals or terrorist groups whose activities are perceived as temporary and as such can be mitigated by proper intelligence, aggressive enforcement activities, and punitive measures. Indeed, much has been achieved in this area and procedures, rules and physical changes were made as deemed necessary by the authorities, such as security procedures at airports and locking cockpit doors in aircraft.
Covid-19, a novel infectious disease, has presented us with a different type of threat. As a natural event, it threatens us anywhere and everywhere and is difficult to identify, track and anticipate. Wherever it emerges, it can harm anyone and can indeed be lethal. In many ways however, it can be considered just one of a list of threats to public transport, which includes the terrorist threats mentioned previously, and like these threats, a high percentage can end in death, especially if the population is high-risk, and it can cause massive economic damage and public terror.
We propose analyzing the Coronavirus threat with the same tools that we use to analyze every other threat on our list and to suggest solutions to minimize outcomes just as we do against any other threat on the list.
In order to reduce the threat, procedures, technology, and architecture must be developed to help detect and prevent anyone suspected of carrying the Coronavirus from entering the plane terminal, the train station or buses. Technological means will help identify the carriers (by measuring heat, face detection, cough detection, etc.) while the right architecture will allow us to quickly isolate the infected area, maintain a quarantined space that can be easily cleaned and have minimal impact on the environment. The procedures will allow professional personnel to act quickly and decisively to isolate an area where a carrier has been identified thus preventing a knock-on effect of infecting or shutting down entire sections of the transportation system.
To reduce the risk of an undetected contagious person entering the public transportation system and the consequences of infection spreading, procedures, technological measures and architecture must also be developed to allow physical exclusion within the terminal or vehicles. Real-time technology can be deployed to reduce the risk of infection among passengers, and procedures for minimizing and isolating suspected infected people in the event that they are identified.