Controlling pandemics like COVID-19 requires strict enforcement of social distancing, lockdowns, and quarantine. In this context, foolproof surveillance mechanisms are gaining importance to ensure public adherence to the norms set by the authorities. Incorporating geographic information systems can strengthen surveillance measures to contain outbreaks like COVID-19.
COVID-19 outbreak took birth in Wuhan in December 2019 and has spread to over 212 countries in the world. Post outbreak, the global events took an interesting turn. The unprecedented spread of the disease prompted lockdowns in most of the countries, including India. Authorities are increasingly turning to geofencing services in this scenario.
The current lockdown situation across the globe
Lockdown is emergency measures that are implemented as mandatory quarantines or non-mandatory stay at home recommendations and includes closure of certain business activities. It allows essential supplies to continue uninterrupted while non-essential activities will be suspended for a while.
It is unanimously agreed that if enforced strictly, lockdowns can slow the spread of COVID-19 in the world. One-third of the global population is under lockdown and many European countries such as Spain, Denmark, Poland, and Germany are also considering easing the restrictions or lifting the lockdowns as the situation has come under control.
The effectiveness of lockdowns was not uniform across the countries. Certain countries like China were able to enforce strict lockdowns and contain the spread while in many other countries lockdowns have not resulted in the desired gains.
How can we increase the effectiveness of lockdowns and ensure public adherence? It requires strict surveillance measures with location intelligence for geofencing and contact tracing. Here is an overview of using geographic information systems during lockdowns for increased public compliance.
GIS and its utility during lockdowns
Social distancing and lockdowns are challenging for densely populated countries like India. In such situations, identifying COVID-19 hotspots and enforcing social distancing and lockdowns becomes crucial. Lockdowns and quarantines become ineffective due to the inherent tendency of the public to break the restrictions on movement. GIS becomes a powerful monitoring tool in such situations.
Geospatial services support the authorities by depicting accurate location intelligence on maps. Governments can plan the placement of barricades, blocking of roads, mark the routes for the movement of essential items. Mapping solutions help to assess the population in slums and manage and set up and the isolation and treatment centers at safe distances.
Drones can impose constant surveillance on a scale that would have been impossible to implement physically by the emergency personnel. Using drones, authorities can monitor the movement of people in the hotspots and control the crowds.
The GIS-enabled maps can give spatial information and aid in planning the movement of essentials in the hotspots, location of quarantine centers, and the allocation of the workforce. Emergency facilities like police stations and hospitals are marked on the maps to identify the shortest routes.
A few instances of utilizing GIS for lockdowns
South Korea, Israel, China, Austria, Belgium, and India have successfully leveraged GIS for increasing the effectiveness of their lockdowns and quarantine measures. South Korea retraced the movements of patients using GIS and alerted people if they cross a COVID-19 patient. Using a separate app the official also tracked the quarantined people. Similar patient monitoring was deployed in other countries.
Many states in India have taken the support of GIS for surveillance. Gujarat government uses a new GIS-based mobile application to monitor the home quarantine suspects. The Telangana government and the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority have also resorted to similar measures. The Center has plans to implement the Covid-19 Quarantine Alert System where telecom data is deployed to trigger alerts when a suspect crosses the quarantine zone.
The utilization of geospatial services and drones for surveillance is a careful balancing act that should not cross the boundaries of security and privacy. However, outbreaks similar to COVID-19 require the support of location intelligence to enforce lockdowns and reduce the spread.
The Home Quarantine Tracking solution is an innovative application that leverages the powerful GIS functionalities with geofencing services and home quarantine of the COVID-19 suspects. This app is cost-effective and easy to use as it comes as a wrist band that is on the suspects. Get in touch with SBL to understand how our latest technology initiatives and mapping solutions help to enforce home quarantines.