Crowd Control in the age of Corona
One of the most complex issues facing us as we struggle to fight the spread of COVID-19 is that of “Crowd Control”. This issue can be broken into two separate questions facing policy makers:
1) Policy – How many people should we allow to congregate in an area?
2) Enforcement – How can we quickly identify and act on gatherings which violate stated policy while limiting the risk of infection among our police and army?
This fascinating article from the National Geographic lays out the complex considerations which go into trying to decide on issues such as the maximal crowd size deemed safe to allow, as well as articulating the thing we all know to be true: The surest way to avoid the spread of COVID-19, as well as potential future pandemic, is through limiting crowd sizes and avoiding contact during outbreaks.
However, while the logic of such policies as limiting the maximum number of people allowed in business or religious establishments, or shelter-in place announcements is clear; it is very difficult to maintain the cooperation of the entire population in such endeavors over time. As recent examples from the US demonstrate (see this early April article on social distancing protest in the US), even relatively restive educated populations balk at long term quarantine measure, but analysis of the crisis in Northern Italy (see this WSJ article on the early reactions to events in Italy) demonstrates the necessity of quick, decisive, and effective implementation of quarantine measures and crowd control.
Moreover, it would require unreasonable to impossible manpower expenditures to patrol all possible venues for gatherings and enact enforcements. Which is why countries are more and more turning to technological means to try and resolve the gap between desired policy and possible enforcement. Countries like the US are beginning to track cellular location data to identify gatherings, while countries like South Korea use the cellular network for targeted messaging and warnings. The only certainty so far is the relative success East Asian countries which have implemented cellular tracking efforts in their crowd control and contact tracing have had in slowing the spread of the pandemic. Therefore, we are likely to see most countries in the world working to quickly develop similar tracking and tracing capabilities to support their own developing fights against this pandemic, as well as future outbreaks.
To read about Septier Communication’s Crowd Controller solution, click here.