‘Countries we once knew to be safe, no longer are. Places we have visited and cities we have loved are not what they used to be. They haven’t changed, we have. The world has. Coronavirus has had a devastating impact on our health, that much we know. But the knock-on effects of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown are starting to emerge in other very real and terrifying ways.
The impact of the Coronavirus and the consequent policies aimed at limiting its spread have affected all sectors of our society. Unemployment and poverty have propelled those already in hardship, further into desperation. Drug and alcohol abuse is on the rise, so too mental health problems. Organised crime is gaining further footholds in society. Those whose job it is to keep us safe – police, the military, national guard – are already stretched with trying to control the pandemic. This has led to gaps being exploited by petty criminals through to terrorist organisations.
All of this means that we, the business traveller, have become all the more vulnerable as our numbers are reduced, and those of our enemy increases.
Street robberies, muggings, thefts from hotel rooms, burglaries from rental properties, car jackings, kidnaps, assaults – have all exponentially increased since the pandemic struck. Countries we once visited without a moment’s hesitation are now the subject of risk assessments we never thought we would be writing.
We are having to re-evaluate the very basics, advice we know people are already very familiar with, such as don’t give out your personal details, pay attention to those around you. All of that is now out of the window.
Our personal details are now being openly recorded at restaurants and bars for track and trace, and often not secured as per GDPR. Handing out our address, our mobile numbers, makes us vulnerable in giving criminals a start point. It may only be a name, but it’s a gift to the negative element seeking to exploit. But it’s the law, so what do we do? What about the wearing of masks? It’s the law in many places now as well. How can we know who is around us when we can’t see their faces? These basics that we are so familiar with can now cause us a potential fall in our personal security.
Country risk ratings no longer apply in the same vein. Snap decisions by a government in the country you are travelling to can mean immediate local lockdowns, overnight economic hardship, the stifling of criminal supply chains. And all of this means the risk to the business traveller is increased, and more so if they are not aware of the changing face of their destination.
We are now being contacted daily by companies who are rightfully requesting location-specific risk assessments. It’s no longer just ‘how safe is that country?’. It’s, ‘how safe is the district, the city, the hotel, the street, the workplace, the morning commute?’. And that risk assessment doesn’t change by the day, it changes by the hour.
Security Management Strategies – Coronavirus Pandemic Impact
Our work is critical for those decision-makers sending staff overseas. We need to enhance their security ‘bubble’ – ensure staff are fully understanding of the place and the situation they are stepping into. They – and their employer – need to understand that just because they got there, doesn’t mean the job is done. So how do we make ourselves safe – and keep it that way – in a world which has changed beyond all recognition in just a few short months.
Firstly, we need to enhance knowledge. Knowledge is power and the old adage ‘forewarned is forearmed’ has never been truer. Employers and corporate travel managers need to start by taking a long hard look at their current global travel policies and adjusting them. All policies should be adaptable for change, so this is no different.
Consider looking in more detail at the elements of the travel and adding a coronavirus specific element to each.
It takes a little thought but for starters, ensure a test is conducted on the potential traveller and check the result is negative prior to the journey. The corporate reputational damage caused by a member of staff carrying the virus into another’s workplace would not only damage the business relationship but could cost financially if mitigation measures could not be demonstrated. Remember the asymptomatic spread of the virus is very real.
Where exactly is the traveller visiting? Which facilities, hotels, workplace etc?
Conduct coronavirus specific research on the area. What is the ‘R’ rate, what are the restrictions?
Seek local knowledge and speak with the hotel, communicate with health and safety managers responsible for the locations to be visited. Consider a personnel tracker and use check-in windows to ensure all is well. Communication is so important to all involved in the travel process. Check the medical facilities in the area, what is your insurance provider recommending? Know where you can get a coronavirus test conducted whilst away should you be put in a position where your personal space is invaded and you are concerned or, worse, you begin to show symptoms.
Don’t just carry PPE and spares, USE it. You have a duty to others even if they feel they do not have a duty to protect you.
The impact of the Coronavirus in our life must push us to ask ourselves many questions.
What if there is a lockdown? What is the crisis management plan? Consider a coronavirus specific ‘burner’ or spare phone. This gives you the ability to not give your daily-use phone number to strangers when filling in track and trace forms. Remember it is only so the establishment can contact you should they need to. Ask what number they would call you from. Think: ‘Do I really need to give my full name? Upon returning, test and quarantine until the results are proven’.
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