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.

The state of COVID-19 detection today

Since it is assumed that transport systems will need to restart and function well before we reach 98% detection capabilities, mitigation solutions must be found and must be flexible enough to be adjusted as the scientific answer to the detection challenges develops. This is similar to the way we deal with most security threats today. We propose to incorporate the threat of the Coronavirus pandemic with other threats that are relevant to the transportation system in question and to look for layered solutions that can improve the overall situation regarding security, safety and of course health.

For the purpose of discussing solutions, we propose to use air transport, with which we are all familiar, as an example. Here the security inspection systems and safety standards are highly developed and dictated by agreed international standards and therefore uniform (at one level or another) throughout the world.

We are all familiar with passenger and baggage inspection whereby the checking procedure begins upon arrival at the terminal by car or public transport, continues at the entrance to the terminal, at the check-in and ticketing counters, the security checkpoint and border control, the internal halls and the gate, the boarding process and finally in the aircraft itself. At each of the above stages, security and surveillance elements incorporating appropriate human, technological, and architectural means are already integrated today. Relating to COVID-19 screening as an additional layer to mitigate an additional threat renders it easier and simpler to deal with, significantly reducing the threats to the terminal and the aircraft and its people.

We present below a limited range of measures that we would recommend considering for airports and airlines. Specific recommendations would be developed after individual, specific analyses for each for terminal or airport.

In the same way that terrorist threats evolve and we must constantly learn and adapt our security procedures and technology to meet the new iterations and developments, so must we relate to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the implications it has on the future spread of viruses. Certainly, research on COVID-19 is evolving and every day we are learning more about its behavior and how to identify and cure the disease, but for now we must focus on planning and implementing sensible mitigation techniques that are applicable to the threat as we understand it today and that we hope will be subject to international agreements to ensure consistency around the globe.

MIP Security specializes in threat mitigation and whether the threat is from an assailant or an airborne virus, we are ready to work with you to analyze, plan, design, train and implement methods and technology that will help ensure safe and secure travelling and business continuity.