Border Management for the Future: Lessons from the pandemic
The operational realities facing border agencies in the first stages of the outbreak highlighted the need to improve base-level cooperation between border agents, customs services, and health organizations, and also the necessity to step up capacities and technical assistance on health-related issues, including crisis management and contingency planning.
Nations need to cooperate better on early warning and risk assessment. This should start with agreed mechanisms to trigger the adoption of safeguards against the spread between countries, regions, and continents. The fact that infected people may be asymptomatic adds to the seriousness and scale of the crisis and highlights the need to share information across borders, including threat perception and risk analysis.
Specialists argue that if all countries rapidly put into place effective testing, isolation, quarantine, and social distancing during the initial months of a pandemic, the prolonged use of travel restrictions might not be necessary. The unwillingness or inability to apply effective public health interventions domestically may, in turn, amplify the importance of border management.
Learning from our experiences
Due to the spread of new variants of the virus and the slow pace of vaccination completion, governments and societies continue to face the unforeseen and unprecedented challenges of responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The experiences since the beginning of the pandemic have pointed to the importance of well-managed actions at the local, national, and cross-border levels. Many of these steps address issues that are now well-documented, including medical support for testing, contact tracing, vaccine management, supply chain challenges around vaccine production and distribution, impacts on local job markets, and the importance of addressing equity in delivering social services.
The power of data
All this highlights how data is key to understanding a problem well enough to develop a solution. But the various players responding to a crisis must be able to communicate with one another using consistent terms, definitions, and methodology for the data.
If central coordination for procurement is in place, the various players are prevented from competing against one another, which can lead to higher prices and unnecessary shortages.
Unlikely events that have high potential consequences still require preparation. Risk management can help weigh the odds and spell out plans for future health calamities.
Borders will matter even more for global health security in the post-pandemic period. Simply put, the old ways of managing them will not work. Effective responses to major disease events in the future will require all countries to navigate between mobility restrictions and keeping borders wide open. And countries will need to act together because uncoordinated actions not supported by science and evidence are harmful to everyone. Restoring a multilateral approach to border management must be a key priority in strengthening future pandemic preparedness.
The role of technology
Technology could help solve some of the conflicting objectives of border control agencies, which must reconcile secure but speedy border checks that do not inconvenience travelers whilst being cost effective. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in border management could help avoid physical contacts in situations when physical distancing is required to prevent infections.
WCC group and its HERMES advance passenger information system (APIS) is a great example of how AI and specialized software can enhance border management.
HERMES also upgrades cross-border safety through its COVID-19 Health Dashboard, where the applied use of contactless solutions enhances the use of digital passports. Medical records can be integrated, such as vaccination history that must be secure for privacy and personal protection reasons together with the biometric data already contained in passports or identity cards.
In the long-term, border controls must change. If we learn the right lessons from the crisis, the result will be a positive one.
WCC is a leading provider of advanced ID/Security solutions for government agencies worldwide. WCC’s expertise and technology can help mitigate border security challenges and increase global health security. If you want more information, contact us to set up a call with our ID/Security experts.