Covid-19, also known as the ‘Coronavirus’, caught us by surprise. Feelings of stress and uncertainty surround almost each and every individual worldwide. Fears for our health and economy are more than everyday concern- they are real, and ‘tangible’. It is literally, across the corner and almost everywhere. The fight against Corona is a joint one, since this is global crisis that shall be remembered by history. Experts and professionals from different sectors are trying to cope with streams of questions regarding infections, precautions, symptoms, and ‘how to wash our hands properly’. Not all of us are considered as ‘vulnerable ones’, but as days go by, it becomes quite clear-in many aspects- we all are.
Experts suggests that chances are that roughly 80% of the population will catch the virus. Further, part of us already have, without developing any significant symptoms. Nonetheless, it is still contagious. Thus, the goal is not try and prevent the inevitable. Rather, to ‘flatten the curve’- to delay it. This logic stands behind the different national policies. However, what differentiate them is the ‘deadline’. For example, while Britain favors more the notion of spreading the virus for developing herd immunity, Israel prefer to ‘go harsh’ by putting all citizens under self-quarantine, and to limit the activity of its financial markets. Everyone in-no excuses. Restricting public gathering and individual movements to essentials only, will not only reduce the massive spread, hopefully to its’ minimum, but will also prevent from the national health system to collapse (e.g. Italy- and the lesson was learned). It will provide doctors the ability to save the infected ones lives.
If to be optimistic, the crisis will disappear rapidly as it came. However, at the moment, it feels that Corona is here to stay. The questions is until when. True, it may be gone by next winter, or maybe even by Mid-June. But what if not additional pick is more than possible and reasonable.
As a result, hoping for the best but expecting and fearing from the worse, different governments, including Israel, has decided to issue strict and severe guidelines that will allow them to ‘buy’ some time to learn and deduce from each other. Time for gaining control back. ‘The end justifies the means’, and Israel, as Italy is under a lockdown.
Public gatherings of more than 10 people are not allowed. Private and Public events are cancelled with no exceptions. Bar Mitzvahs, weddings and National ceremonies as Memorial Day and Independence Day should not be marked, nor celebrated. The country is on hold. Schools nurseries and universities closed their gates, and people are encouraged to work from home. Public services are operating with minimum work force and within limited hours, while supermarkets should work 24/7. The new life settings does not support crowdedness, since the virus does. Thus, these measures are precautions for reducing and limiting social interactions. People should keep at least two meter distance from each other. When it comes to public transportation for example, since shutting it down completely is not possible, it was decided that travelling while standing is prohibited.
This is the time to ask: is it possible? For how long can we keep social distant from our friends and family? For how long can we survive mentally? The government cannot trace the ‘crowd’s footsteps’ in full anyway
Let’s go back to the bus. People should commute. As a fact. This is why services are still operating. Even if we will allow only certain amount of people to go on it, people will still be waiting at the station. Some may arrive early, some may wait for their friends, and some may decide to eat something and go on the next one.
What about Supermarket? As shown in news all over the world, quarantine results in long queues and store wandering for stock-pilling. After all, the Pantry should be fully prepared for the whole family’s emotional eating and a 24/7 Sunday roast.
If putting aside individuals’ personal price, assuming that they are willing to pay it, at least for now and knowing what’s on stack, the price for the domestic and international economy and markets cannot be disregarded. Currently, the burden is falling mainly in small businesses, which are struggling financially anyway. Is limiting their activity or shutting them down completely is the right and appropriate measure? Will this stop the Corona? What about Synagogues, temples or mosques? Can we tell a person to act against its belief? We all know and feel the answer.
Many other examples exists, and I can easily pull them from my sleeve, since they describe our basic everyday reality which is taken from us.
The attempt to protect our physical health may create too many cracks in our general wellbeing. Mentally, the implications of the Corona guidelines are too much to handle. Israel’s citizens are used to live under conditions of uncertainty. Employment, health and national security are not obvious. The ground is unstable to begin with, and Closing the financial market or limiting movement only make it move under our feet. It aggravates the situation, add more stress and difficulties, perhaps more than one can live with or should try to. Israelis already have more than enough.
Staying home for three months and keeping our children inside, without the support of the education systems is not reasonable. The answer is clear: If we are looking for the road that doesn’t lead to Rome, we should be responsible and sensible while paving it. We need to learn how to live with Covid-19 until a medical solution will be found.
Keeping the crowd ‘safe and sound’ as a crowd
The theory of Crowd Management considers four variables as fundamental for analyzing how to allow people to gather together safely in one place, at the same time.
- Space: The size of the space(s) where it is expected to stay;
- Time: for how long it is expected stay there, including times of entry and exit.
- Numbers: The amount of people staying at this ‘one place at the same time’;
- Crowd beaver and/or the architecture of the venue.
In our case, what endangers the crowd is Covid-19. More accurately, the chances of being infected by the virus. Thus, in order to keep the crowd safe, the all of the four above should be multiplied by the distant of two-meters, which presents the ‘Covid-19 safety factor’.
Hence, if we are considering public gathering in a synagogue of around 100 Square meter, and the entrance door is of 1 meter wide, we should allow only between 50 100 people to get inside, depending upon how strict our policy is, according to magnitude of the risk in the scenario.
Let’s take this one step further. 100 people we allowed in. They also need to go through the door, which is, as indicated of 1 meter wide. If it usually takes one and a half minutes to get everyone inside, then under the conditions of ‘covid-19’, it would take longer, since we multiply the time by the
Covid-19 safety factor.
So far- the basics, which unfortunately may not be enough.
The present and future needs of our society are more complicated. Ad-hoc creative solutions should be provided since quarantine is not the answer. Something more can be done, and it should. All it takes is for us to think outside the box.
The two examples below demonstrate how we can maintain our lives by efficient crowd managing without increasing the risk for massive spread.
The public’s panic form the virus resulted, internationally, in as massive flow of people to supermarkets. Everyone were willing to stand hours in queues for flour, tuna and some peas. Regardless of the fact that this is exactly what the quarantine aim to prevent a massive crowd of people infecting each other, the panic calmed down, and everyone got their toilet paper rolls, the fear from the corona led to different reactions by citizens People started to fear going-out to public areas, even for daily errands, as buying groceries. But at some point, they will have to.
Good crowd management can help reduce these unnecessary stressful fears. Let’s go back to our analysis before:
The supermarket size is fixed. It is not changeable. Neither the time needed for completing the shopping. Thus, what we should do it to reevaluate how many people are able to shop safely, while accounting for the Covid-19 factor (of two-meter distance).  In addition, for allowing the experience to be pleasant, other solutions should be implemented:
- Extending business hours for 24/7 services and allowing to open even on weekends;
- Extending deliveries by flexing employment laws.
- Reduce interaction between shoppers. Separating between the ‘walk-in’ shoppers and the ‘click and collect’. This means to use suppliers’ entrance.
- Using appointment services, as done in museums around Europe, or in post-offices. This can prevent queues and reduce unexpected shoppers. Further, this service can be smartly use for allocating time slots to the vulnerable populations. Masks and gloves can be provided to them as well.
- Staff should be placed at the entrance for counting how many people are getting in, reassuring that the maximum is not exceeded.
- Protecting the supermarket staff by giving them sufficient masks, gloves, etc.
This is important for allowing good service and good shopping experience under the circumstances.
It is important that any actions taken are explained gradually and sensibly by the media, including social one, billboards, and on sites.
The attitude of the employees and their cooperation is crucial. Appreciation must be shown.
Good on-site management is also highly important for allowing smooth transaction of people, products, and inspection. It allows to draw conclusions and to improve service with time.
A working place as a supermarket, which is able to operate under changing and challenging conditions, helps economy to remain stable. Further, it helps society to remain insane while take part in the joint effort against the epidemic.
Competition between businesses should be put aside, since sectorial collaboration is fundamental. 
To put things as they are: we cannot ‘survive’ when education system is closed for too long. Remote education via computers may not be the best solution for the long run. We will literally start ”climbing the walls’, and I do not wish to even and think upon the meaning for future generation. This have significant implications, especially for teenagers who are before final exams and may be struggling with mental health and anxiety anyway. There is no need to add more stress since good management can provide appropriate solutions.
Nor the size of the classroom or the number of pupils is can be changed. However, the times are flexible
- We can divide the class into two groups, regardless of those who are isolating;
- For those who are isolating, remote facilities may be adequate;
- The two groups can be divided to morning and afternoon classes;
- The time between classes can be used for discussing the situations and for helping the young children to adapt.
- Self-protection measures should be provided for all. Since they are kids, it may be harder for them to pay attention to the guidelines.
Herein, similar to the supermarkets, recruiting the teachers is the key. Good management and demonstrating appreciations towards them – can make the difference.
I have provided only two examples, but our daily lives includes many more. All is solvable by efficient crowd management if we want to. It can apply on restaurants, commuting, work places, culture events, theaters, etc.
Following the Health Ministry guidelines is the first and foremost important measure epidemic. Nonetheless, it is not achievable without the public collaboration. The public will be able to be fully ‘on-board’, only by having something to hold on to. The stability of the market, and the daily routine are a source for strength. It allows mental ‘immunity’, which is definitely not of less importance than physical one.
Good crowd management allows to improve both without hurting the other.
Hoping for better days
Ofer Grinboim Liron.
Israeli expert in crowd management at events and complexes