As a security specialist in the 24/7 London Security centre, my job is to monitor for security incidents and disruption across Europe and large parts of Africa. Therefore, as governments all over the world put travel restrictions to curtail the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it fell upon me and my fellow security specialists to make sure that our client’s employees understand what travel is still feasible.
The team knew what to expect; a very busy period ahead. It started as a trickle of airlines suspending flights and countries curtailing air links to China, but it soon turned into a torrent of border closures. We were put on alert in February when a number of governments started systematically barring entry for travellers from Italy. As the weeks went on, actively monitoring and keeping our client’s employees aware of the ever-changing web of travel restrictions was becoming a much bigger part of our daily routine.
For some countries, keeping track of restrictions imposed by the government was relatively easy. This was either due to the government already commissioning a dedicated website for the COVID-19 pandemic, or because any announcement quickly made its way into media sources that we are monitoring 24/7. We certainly had to ensure that we used our regional knowledge to identify the most reliable local sources, and utilise our team’s extensive language skills to decode the often-convoluted legal documents put forth by government.
However, for countries with under-resourced institutions and communication campaigns, we needed to be more creative to find reliable information. For a federal country like Nigeria where each state had the authority to set its own lockdown measures, our extensive networks of on-the-ground contacts came in useful as it allowed us to get granular information in a challenging environment.
We continued to reach out to our in-country providers and contacts to verify information, check for updates, and even just to get a sense of how the situation on the ground is changing. Being a 24/7 team meant that we were able to get this information around the clock and have it readily available for our client’s employees – no matter what time of the day (or night!) they would be logging in.
Throughout the crisis, our work behind the scenes never stopped. Just as some countries were imposing restrictions, others were lifting them. Particularly today, keeping track of the new amendments and slight easing of restrictions in each country, or even regions of a country, is keeping us busier than ever. We all very much look forward to the day when we will advise our members once more that ‘travel can resume’…