Security challenges warp as lockdowns are eased

The pandemic environment is changing the profile of security risk, and will continue to do so as lockdowns are relaxed around the world. This is the view of security and risk experts at International SOS, which has experienced a considerable rise of COVID-19 related security cases during the pandemic.

Three new major security challenges have emerged, alongside the expected underlying security issues that the pandemic environment brings about.

James Bird, security director of intelligence and operations at the firm says that up to 75% of its security cases have been COVID-19-related in recent months, with total cases rising to double the number it would normally expect to see each month.

"Locations previously considered low security risk are experiencing new emerging risks. Many countries will also find that the pandemic environment exacerbates underlying or pre-existing security concerns," he explains. "These are notably associated with economic inequality and political polarisation, which will fuel second-order security consequences. It is clear that security teams will play a critical role when transitioning to a ‘new normal’ workplace, as lockdown measures in many nations start to be relaxed. Visibility of the new security status in the current environment will be vital for the return to safe and sustainable operations.

Emerging security risks (Source: International SOS)

·Social unrest and petty crime - the severe worldwide economic downturn as a result of large-scale and prolonged restrictions on mobility, disruption to production and supply chains, and closure of businesses, will lead to a rise in social unrest and petty crime in certain locations

· Anti-government sentiment - will be driven by perceived poor governmental responses to the pandemic as well as high unemployment levels, potentially prompting unrest or challenges to leadership, particularly in locations with polarised societies or those with major political oppositions.

· Xenophobia - an increase in nationalistic trends has already been accompanied by a rise in xenophobia in some locations, targeted at those who are falsely seen as spreading the virus or having privileged access to medicine and food supplies.

Exacerbated underlying or pre-existing security risks include:

· Political violence, including terrorism, insurgency, politically motivated unrest and war

· Social unrest, including sectarian, communal and ethnic violence

· Violent and petty crime

· The effectiveness of the security and law enforcement services

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