COVID-19’s resilience in the face of existing global lockdown strategies suggests controlling it demands more careful management of interconnected people and the vigorous and imaginative enhancement of interconnected technologies.

A virus with the capacity to pass from 1 person to 100 people in a closed room in a single evening highlights the importance of managing human contact as a way to control its spread. It also underlines the intense importance of managing human movement through regions and across borders via the use of careful quarantine measures that are tolerable for people isolating before joining their wider community.

Unsurprisingly for virologists, nations and regions with less interconnectedness have avoided the worst of the COVID-19 epidemic when compared to those which are more connected. Some countries with no COVID-19 include isolated Pacific Island nations such as Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and others, all of which moved fast to close borders as COVID-19 emerged.

This observation doesn’t only apply at a national level but at a regional and city level, as well. Cities with considerable global human connections – New York and London – have found it harder to control the virus than isolated cities such as Perth. And at a regional level in ANZ it’s not surprising to find the more isolated areas like NT and Te Wai Pounamu are managing well, while more globally connected regions, like Victoria and NSW, have struggled.

Further, some countries, regions and cities are managing COVID-19 well at an operational level, while others are denying it even exists. This reality needs to feed into procedures – not only at a state level but at an organisational level, through strategies that protect staff and customers in higher risk areas by managing physical contact between people, while facilitating virtual contact between people.

The upshot of the challenges posed by human contact call for layers of management – the more connectedness, the more rigorous procedures and strategies must be. Quarantine is an issue for state and national governments, but within quarantining processes, there’s also plenty of room for the clever application of technology, not only to manage people movement in quarantine facilities, but to maintain the sense of connectness of people who are undergoing isolation.

In the wider business context, access control procedures, contact tracing, management of people by video analytics that detect and alarm when too many people are in proximity to one another, all have a role to play and it’s likely this role will expand. While Victoria is battling painfully through a re-emergence of COVID-19 and must remain in lockdown for another 4 weeks, this will pass, and on the other side, human contact will need to be reimagined and more care applied in the managing of it.

Something clear is that humans the world across get tired of being apart and of following social rules that are not natural for the majority. Given time most people will gravitate to one another – in the office, in the park – even in quarantine.

Managing this natural human tendency compassionately but effectively will demand the use of capable and affordable security technologies in support of procedures like mask wearing, hygiene, the establishment of low touch environments and the habituated maintenance of low contact and safe distance.

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