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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we knew it. Healthcare workers have shown enormous sense of duty to save people’s lives. All over the world people are subject to public health and safety measures that impact their daily lives.

In this new, unstable reality, private security services support the efforts of frontline workers and have proven to be essential for the functioning of our economies, not only during lockdowns but also now that policymakers, medical experts and businesses are trying to find the right balance of measures for a safe and secure economic recovery. Private security services have always been essential for safety and security in many different locations – most importantly at Critical Infrastructure and in public spaces.

What is different now is the level of recognition that the industry receives in many countries – by Heads of State, law enforcement, and the public. The often-hidden workforce of millions of security officers has rightly been celebrated as “everyday heroes”. Private security officers help huge population across the globe to stay safe and navigate through this unprecedented health crisis when shopping, going to work, travelling, and visiting beloved ones in hospitals and retirement homes.

Still, the economic impact of the pandemic on the industry is severe. New services, related to the implementation of public health and safety measures, can by no means compensate for the drastic slump of business activities in aviation industry and travel and tourism. In some countries, these challenges are exacerbated by bad contracting practices and insufficient support of a profession that requires special attention and recognition, given the mission of safety and security it must carry out.

It is undeniable that, for private security companies as well as other industries, the COVID-19 pandemic is an accelerator and amplifier of change. The recognition of the sector in most countries may, hopefully, lead to a better public-private collaboration in the future. The deployment of smart technologies will certainly be accelerated. And the securitisation of health that we witness is likely leading to a better consideration of biological risks in integrated and coherent security frameworks – probably with some new services to last in a post-COVID-19 world, which, as history has shown, is unfortunately likely to experience future episodes of pandemics.

But there are many challenges to face: the economic situation of the sector, lack of skilled workers, new training needs, threats to public security and, in some countries, a very weak or damaged Security infrastructures. However, this is also opening door to some new security players.

Across North American and European newspapers, private security officers working in hospitals, supermarkets, supply chains, Cash & Valuables-in-Transit (CIT) and Critical Infrastructures were rightly recognized as everyday heroes.

Such appreciation plays an important role for a workforce that supports the ranks of frontline workers in this unprecedented public health crisis.

Since the strictest containment measures were lifted within early summer 2020, most countries witnessed a new demand on private security personnel as the sector and its workforce would play a critical role for the re-opening of our societies and businesses. Retailers, hospitals and offices have important staffing needs in order to make access to their buildings and premises compliant with public health measures, such as physical distancing, maintaining correct mask usage and disinfection procedures. In some countries, private security companies also support the protection of test-centres.

What we have been witnessing is the emerging concept of “securitisation of health”. In this enduring public health crisis, private security has demonstrated that it is a critical pillar of trust to make the public and clients feel secure.

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