The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 is being felt globally as it spreads and causes panic across the entire world. This is evident in the reactions of governments, communities and individuals and the business world has also changed overnight, dragging the world’s stock markets to extraordinary lows and almost completely halting global air traffic. The crisis has severely hit the service industry in general and the tourism, hospitality and restaurant sector in particular and has resulted in tens of millions of unemployed and in anyone who can work from home to do so.
Nevertheless, mankind and modern society are strong and without question will get through the corona pandemic and move on. The question arises as to how this dramatic event will affect personal and community security and safety as life starts to return to normal.
As members of the security industry and as citizens, it is our duty to try to foresee the challenges and prepare ourselves for the day after to allow for the proper functional continuity of our society, community and businesses.
Personal / Community Security Status
With the outbreak of COVID-19, world attack trends point to a clear increase in extreme right / anti-immigrant movements. An upsurge in nationalist movements calling for the struggle for self-determination with a clear anti-immigration flavor is already being felt with the first indication of this type seen in the incident in which a man with previous hate attack plans was killed while planning to bomb the Missouri Hospital treating COVID-19 patients. In addition, radical Islamic terrorist movements have not disappeared from the world stage but have moved from the Middle East arena (such as Iraq and Syria) to disperse throughout the world, increasing activity in Africa, Europe and East Asia.
The economic situation
The COVID-19 pandemic began at a time of unprecedented global economic growth and with people around the world seeing a continuous rise in their quality of life, their life expectancy, their wealth and their well-being. All this however has been at the expense of uncontrolled usage of the earth’s natural resources, while causing climate change that is escalating and in the opinion of many experts, causing more and increasingly severe natural disasters. Within a very short time from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-January 2020, the world economy ground to a halt. Extreme efforts are being made to put the brakes on globalization, even if only for a short period, to enable countries, cities and communities to isolate and help restrain the pandemic. These combined efforts have resulted in the immediate closure of many workplaces, sending employees home on leave or dismissing them completely and thereby creating a surge in unemployment rates globally. Most of the laid-off workers have some savings that will allow them to survive for several months, but what happens next? Will they have anywhere to work after the crisis is over? What will happen to owners and employees of businesses who will not survive the crisis? Or with the savings that will be lost in the stock market collapses?
Possible Future prospects
Predicting the future is hard enough in regular times and almost impossible in uncertain times such as the ones we are going through now. Having said that, as security professionals whose job is to plan and mitigate for future eventualities, it is incumbent upon ourselves to try and predict what lays ahead with a view to preparing for different outcomes.
Based on the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, past events and human nature, the following assumptions can be made:
- World nations will invest more to prepare themselves for the changing nature of diseases and natural disasters. This will include a recurrence of pandemics of novel viruses as well as an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disaster events that will have global impact (such as the tsunami in Thailand).
- World economies will enter a recession that could last several months or a number of years during which the world economy will change. We expect to see a reduction of globalization and an increase in regional and national independence in the manufacturing and service sectors at the expense of economic efficiency.
- The number of unemployed globally will continue to increase in the short to medium term, with a consequent general reduction in the standard of living and welfare of all citizens (with the exception of the upper class).
- Immigrant movement will expand dramatically and is likely to be met by intensifying efforts to close the borders of developed countries to reduce the refugee numbers.
- Internal social pressures will cause tension and undermine citizens’ personal security and safety threatening established sectors and their communities.
- Widening use of electronic surveillance in the name of tracking COVID-19 carriers may cause unrest and resentment due to privacy and cybersecurity concerns.
Analysis of expected options for personal and community security
Even prior to the Coronavirus era, personal security for many had become fragile. If we now take into account the additional Coronavirus related assumptions, we can expect a significant and dramatic increase in this fragility. Threats in the 20th century mainly originated from external sources such as global terrorism or domestic terrorist movements influenced externally. Threats in the 21st century are likely to be internal and include both extreme right movements and home-grown terrorism. We believe that the updated threat context should include a significant increase in social unrest incidents, originating from the social and economic changes resulting from the new era we are entering as a result of the pandemic. As security professionals, we have all related to chemical and biological threats in the context of a deliberate action by an adversary but we must now adjust our thinking to encompass natural threats such as the coronavirus.
We cannot overestimate the dramatic influence we believe this will have on the planning of personal, public or corporate security. This has already been demonstrated in changes to personal security and safety seen in countries that have undergone a governmental or social upheaval over the past few decades. Unlike a self-inflicted governmental or social upheaval, it seems that there is currently no escape from the expected global change resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic and therefore we must prepare for it. Preparing for such extreme scenarios may, in the worst case, cause us to be over protected, but there is a good chance that it may save our business and community at this time and allow continuity and resilience.
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