BEGINNING OF THE END OF COVID-19 LOCKDOWN?

As South Africa enters Level 2 of our COVID-19 lockdown, following President Ramaphosa’s Sunday evening announcement to the nation, we look back and answer some of the questions that we were almost too frightened to ask in Level 5, but that we knew were all too predictable. When we watched the TV images of SANDF soldiers enforcing those early lockdown regulations, we asked again and again what would happen when people’s need to feed their families could not be met because they were forced indoors and not able to work. We think it’s fair to say that most South Africans were willing and happy to comply with the president’s initial three-week lockdown, a move that earned him global admiration; but that willingness abated rather quickly when the, “unconstitutional and irrational” to quote a High Court judgement, regulations promulgated by the ubiquitous ‘National Coronavirus Command Council’ ceased to make sense and the Command Council appeared not to want to listen either to its citizens or to reason.

What we predicted was looting, lawlessness and protest, the latter quite reasonable, the former two not so much.

Whereas we are grateful that the looting and public violence never became widespread and completely uncontrollable anarchy, a predictable consequence thereof was that an already stretched SA Police Service suddenly had to deal with a slew of new ‘crimes’ in addition to the ones that police officers in SA deal with every day; their eye was off the proverbial ball and they cannot be solely to blame for that. As a result of this new mandate for SAPS to enforce lockdown rules and regulations, a host of new crime trends emerged as criminal syndicates sought to capitalise on the reduced policing capacity and what they likely interpreted as the absence of a capable guardian. This, it has to be said, they did with some degree of success.

Recent media reports have shown a clear increase in violent crime, from brazen daylight armed robbery (behind the convenient disguise of a face-mask!) to a spike in ‘blue-light’ vehicle hijacking and kidnappings.

Our previous blogs spoke about the importance of paying attention to residential and commercial property security and applying the basic principles of the ‘rings of the onion’ and ‘protection in depth’ when assessing how electronic, physical and human security measures are applied and deployed to our families, businesses and assets. We highlighted the need for security programmes that incorporated multiple measures designed to ‘deter, detect and delay’ any attempts at intrusion, and the importance of integrating these measures with a credible armed response provider, given that many offices, factories and warehouses were either operating at a largely reduced capacity, or left completely unoccupied for certain periods.

Armed attacks on trucks, for a host of reasons from xenophobia to just plain robbery, increased, causing logistics companies and consumer goods businesses to reassess how assets in transit can be better secured so that trucks and goods reach their destinations safely. Sadly, this ‘reactive’ approach meant that many companies lost millions of rand in stock to criminal syndicates before making the necessary adjustments to increase security and safeguard their cargo.

So much for our domestic safety and security context, what about COVID-19? A recent Facebook post sums where we are up as follows: Don’t think that Lockdown Level 2 means we’ve beaten the disease. Difficult days lie ahead. Keep safe. Keep being careful. Continue to only meet people you have to meet, and wear masks (in public) and keep physical distance. Continue working from home as much as possible. Meet your family, but limit contact and keep physical distance.

The job is not finished yet. It is now UP TO US to keep safe. The regulations – or lack of them – won’t keep us safe. “Lockdown 2” isn’t a free pass to “get back to normal”. If we mess this up, we can see an increase again in infections. We need to remain disciplined. No excuses.”[1]

Covid-19 Beginning of the end?Not many of us believe that we could go back to Level 4, or heaven-forbid, Level 5; but how possible is that actually? And how foolish would we look if that happened and we hadn’t planned for that, and we don’t mean by stocking up on beer and wine!

So the message is, “Be prepared”. Ask yourself and your organisation the question, are we ready to continue being productive if it happens and we are locked down again, like New Zealand (everyone’s shing beacon of how to do COVID-19) and certain parts of Italy? Have we built in the redundancies to ensure operational continuity in the event of another hard lockdown, or have we identified new and innovative ways to operate in the event that we are thrust into what will be a highly restrictive business environment?

A constant NSA Global refrain is, “The time for planning is not when an incident occurs, that’s when you implement the plan; by implication meaning that you already have one”. As many companies have learnt the hard way, it is not enough to only safeguard against the current and existing risks given how fluid the situation has been globally. A forward view must be taken to analyse the available data and predict what new potential risks may arise in this ever-evolving landscape. What we are advocating is, “Let’s play the ‘what-if’ game NOW,” so that we and our clients and customers are not found wanting when the next curve-ball arrives.

[1] Copyright and our thanks: Graeme Codrington, futurist

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