Start of the Endemic

I heard today that the United Kingdom is in the truly fortunate position of being one of the first countries to get towards the effective end of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is fantastic news, but it is easy to forget that this is not the first pandemic to accost the UK: at the start of the last century there was a flu pandemic that killed somewhere between 50 and 100 million people at a time when the Worldwide population was only one eighth of today’s size.

Many of us, including me, have lost loved-ones as either a direct or indirect consequence of COVID19, but it looks like our society is now thinking more about living with COVID in the long-term.

So, what will this entail? Mask wearing has survived in Japan after the SARS outbreak there, but time will tell if our society will do the same. It is very clear that the COVID measures, including maskwearing, also reduced instances of flu last Christmas. But is it possible that, before COVID, we were becoming complacent about infectious diseases?

We live in a technological society and have long deployed considerable technical and human resources against another set of plagues: theft, anti-social behaviour, dangerous driving, etc, so maybe its time we looked at doing the same for viral plague threats. We cannot produce a vaccine for a virus that doesn’t yet exist, but we can automatically look for signs of infection and adherence to anti-viral measures. This does not even require sanctions against individuals but just intelligence in building control systems that redirect airflow or open windows, if there is a heightened risk of infection of staff.

As we have seen from the PINGdemic recently, corporate’s operations, finance and even future existence can be dramatically affected by staff shortage. There is a fairly straightforward business case, therefore that demonstrates how current investment in technology will payback many-fold in staff productivity over time.

Is the technology available or do we have to wait? Well, it is available but not widely so and is therefore expensive right now, but parts of the technology are readily available and will serve part of this function as well as providing other benefits and all for a comparatively low investment. These include Tether’s approach to the marketplace: that of securely collecting and corelating visual information and sending it, securely, to the Cloud for analysis by artificial intelligence. The use of certain camera types will enable the assessment of someone’s temperature and AI can detect behaviour patterns indicative of illness. Very quickly companies can provide a non-invasive means of achieving their duty of care to staff and customers and help to limit the spread of the next pandemic.

I am sorry to say that there will be one!