COVID-19 Manual Case studies: Geographical

COVID-19 insights from global IMechE members as of 30 October 2020

The following reports are views from members across the world providing a snapshot into the ways individual countries have reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic and particularly how engineering measures have supported efforts to achieve safe and healthy environments.

The pandemic is continually evolving and transmission risk reduced as efforts to suppress it are applied. As countries share experiences we can learn from each other and  work together to develop best practice engineered infection control measures.

Australia

Leslie Yeow IMechE Oceania Regional Chair

Overview

The situation in Australia is fluid at best of times with each state doing something different at different times.

Citizens of Australia as a whole are not allowed to leave the country unless they obtain special permission from the Department of Home Affairs; currently about three quarters of the applications are denied.

In some cases, it also applies to non-citizens of Australia who are normally permanently resident in the country.

Returning to Australia

It is also very difficult for Australian citizens to return to Australia. Owing to the requirement for 14-day quarantine in specific hotels from all international arrivals, (at passenger's own costs), there is a limit of about 400 arrivals a week into places like Sydney or Melbourne. Recently, they have been arriving in Darwin and quarantining there at their own cost. Consequently, there are still many thousands of Australians stranded overseas waiting for some way to get home. The government has indicated that they want to get most people home by Christmas.

Further information

Australian States

There is a lot to read and not easy to keep up with changes. I have provided links to state websites to provide accurate information.

The states do operate exemptions for heavy commercial vehicles transporting things like food, fuel and other essential supplies. The majority of flights going around the country are cargo flights. However, one can fly around large states like Queensland freely.

There is currently a "travel bubble" in operation between New South Wales and New Zealand, in that people flying in from New Zealand are not required to undergo quarantine. The issue is that people flying into New South Wales continue their journey to other states and have to quarantine there.

Testing

Testing is available at most hospitals and fever clinics indicated on the website for your state. There is a phone number to ring if you need to get yourself tested. A person who is tested is normally requested not to move around until the test results are returned.

Face masks

There is no requirement to wear face masks in any state except for Victoria. But it is recommended to wear it, keep social distancing and to avoid close contact with people who don't normally live with you. No more shaking of hands and fist pumps.

 

Australian Capital Territory

Australian Capital Territory is open to all except Victoria.

Further information

New South Wales

New South Wales is open to all including New Zealand, except Victoria.

Further information

Northern Territories

Northern Territories has specific requirements for those going to the Territory.

South Australia

South Australia is open to all except Victoria.

Further information

Queensland

Queensland is closed to everyone.

  • Road borders have been set up at Tweed Heads (near Gold Coast) to prevent New South Wales people from crossing over by road - to the dismay of many businesses along the border.

Further information

Tasmania

Tasmania is open to all, except Victoria.

Further information

Victoria

Victoria is still an issue at the moment due to its recent outbreak. But I believe they are about to relax their lockdown requirements in the next few days.

Further information

Western Australia

Western Australia is closed to everyone.

Further information

Germany: State of Hessen

Raymond Hodgkinson

Overview

As Germany is a Federal Republic, each state can, and does, set its own regulations which change as the local situation develops; therefore this can only be a snapshot of the state of Hessen which includes Frankfurt am Main.

Many regulations are based on the new infection rate per 100.000 inhabitants within seven days, which are divided into bands of up to 35, up to 50 and 50 and above.


 


Rate up to 35

Rate up to 50Rate above 50Rate above 75
Contact---Contact restricted to maximum 5 people or 2 households in public.
Face masksCompulsory masks in public spaces such as gastronomy, churches, shops etc. Compulsory masks in all busy public spaces, even outdoors and all public institutions
Public spacesContact restricted to 10 people or 2 households in public spaces
Public events maximum 250 peoplemaximum 150 peoplemaximum 100 people
Private celebrationsmaximum 50 people
Private celebrations in public spacesmaximum 25 people or 2 households  maximum 10 people or 2 households
Private celebrations in private houses maximum 15 people or 2 householdsmaximum 10 people or 2 households
Curfew
Recommended curfew from 23:00 to 6:00 i.e. all public venues closed.Curfew and ban on all alcohol consumption in public from 23:00 to 6:00

 

General rules

  • Compulsory masks in all public transport or at busy bus, train and tram stops.
  • Quarantine for all returning from risk areas, even with a Covid-19 free certificate. Quarantine can be lifted after five days with a negative test.

Sporting venues

Many swimming pools and thermal spas are open but with reduced numbers, usually requiring pre-booking, and other restrictions, such as saunas without pouring water on the stones or waving towels to spread heat. Masks are compulsory up to and inside the changing rooms.

Public sport

A confusing picture in football. Minor league football clubs, e.g. Kickers Offenbach, can have unrestricted spectators right up to a full stadium, while First Division teams, e.g. Eintracht Frankfurt, were allowed 8000 at one match, 10000 at the next and then, although a university study showed no single case of coronavirus infection resulting from either match, were forbidden any spectators for subsequent matches!

Amateur sport continues but again different rules in different places, e.g. referees in Wiesbaden may shower and change after the match but across the river Rhine in Mainz, the changing rooms are all closed and they are supposed to change in the open!

Schools

Airports

  • Frankfurt Airport reports 83% less passengers in September 2020 than in September 2019.

 

Japan

Rob Domloge, Secretary General, IMechE Japan Cluster

Overview and cultural factors

Even without enforced lockdowns and other draconian measures, people did stay home, borders were closed, and the economy was impacted: the hospitality and travel industries in particular suffered significantly, much the same as in other countries. To help, the government made a one-off payment to every citizen of JPY100,000 (approx. £730), and introduced schemes to encourage domestic travel, giving large discounts in restaurants, hotels, trains etc.

Japan’s death rate from COVID-19 is by far the lowest of any major country (with the exception of China, where the situation and measures taken are not comparable) at total of 1,697 deaths (representing 1.34/100,000 population. UK’s figure is 66.8/100,000 – these are today’s figures from Johns Hopkins).

Some cultural pointers which might be part of the explanation for the anomalous low death rate in Japan:

  • The use of face masks is habitual in Japan in many situations, like having a cold, avoiding dust, allergies, etc., so wearing masks universally is only a small step for most people. The level of conformance in this respect must be very close to 100%: you just never see anybody anywhere without a mask now, even in the provinces and small cities, where prevalence of COVID-19 is very low.
  • People in Japan do not shake hands, ever!. They also do not habitually hug or kiss, even among friends and family.
  • People are generally conforming and disciplined: when the advice is to use disinfectant for your hands when you enter/exit shops etc. people do just that, and every single shop, office and restaurant now provides an alcohol disinfectant spray at the entrance. This may explain why shops are packed, as usual, with no imposed distancing measures.

Emergency period

No lockdown or any other ‘enforceable’ measures were taken: constitution and current laws do not allow this. The corollary is that there were no furlough schemes or other direct employment support.

Government issued ‘requests’ to public and organisations during emergency period of about three weeks in April. Public and organisations largely complied on basis of ‘cooperation’ and to avoid ‘shaming’ by media; conformity is an important cultural trait in Japan). Government requests were to stay home if possible, avoid travel and public transport if possible, etc.

During that period many businesses closed, functions were cancelled.

Post-emergency period

After the emergency conditions were lifted, it was a matter of guidance/advice to the public in the form of three Cs:

  • Avoid Closed places
  • Crowded places
  • Close contact.

Most businesses are now operating.

Testing

Japan did not carry out extensive testing, nor deployed special trace & track apps/software. But Japan nevertheless relied on ‘tracking of clusters’ in a somewhat different fashion to most countries.

As you can understand from this, there are no current restrictions on travel or public transport, even if many people remain reluctant to travel compared to pre-COVID-19. This means, for instance, that the lower frequency of flights currently is purely the result of lack of travellers!

Sporting events

Many sports events are still off the calendar; baseball matches are being held in empty stadia. Biggest concern is about the Olympics, which was postponed from this year to next. Most forms of entertainment are operating again, except where special restrictions apply to control a ‘cluster’, mostly in big cities/urban centres.

Further information

  • This Overlooked variable Is the key to the pandemic. The Atlantic. Sep 2020. 
    Long article - search for references to Japan.
  • UK Government travel advice for Japan www.gov.uk
    “ The majority of businesses are now open, with some restrictions on mass gatherings over 5000 people. Measures encouraging social distancing, wearing masks in public, avoiding closed spaces, and exercising other basic precautions remain in place. Controls may also be strengthened in the event of renewed outbreaks. You should follow the instructions of your local authority.”

New Zealand

Leslie Yeow IMechE Oceania Regional Chair

  • All of New Zealand is presently at Alert Level 1
  • Everyone travelling to New Zealand will need to quarantine for 14 days at managed facilities.
  • Face masks are recommended but not mandatory. 
  • New Zealand citizens are strongly advised not to travel out of New Zealand.
  • There is a phone number to call if you wish to be tested for COVID.

Further information

Sri Lanka

Sam T Perera, Vice Chairman, International Strategy Board, IMechE

Overview

  • In Sri Lanka the government has several regulations in place, some are in the official gazette.
  • Face masks are exempted in your private vehicle and at home.
  • Social distancing is a must, while all are expected to wear a mask.

Testing

  • PCR tests are carried out daily by the government in various places. Testing facilities are also available at private hospitals and airport. testing confirmed 1233 cases last week, highest for any week.
  • Temperature checks are carried out and hand washing/sanitising is a must. This applies to some other places as well.
  • This month’s cases are mainly from a garments factory. Presently there is a continuing curfew in 18 police divisions in Gampaha district, this includes the airport area as well.

Private gatherings

  • Social gatherings in homes are expected to a limit of six.

Public gatherings

  • Public gatherings are now restricted, but possible subject to social distancing.
  • Our Apex body of professionals have had physical meetings of the council and the forum since curfew was lifted few months back. We are having two meetings in the next two weeks.
  • Rooms or halls in institutions, associations are expected to accommodate 40% and 50% respectively, ensuring the metre distance.
  • Weddings in hotel halls are restricted to four persons at a table normally available for eight people and subject to a 50% of hall capacity. Incidentally, I have a wedding on Monday. The host is expected to give ID and addresses of all guests to the hotel in advance.
  • Funerals are limited according to the space available in a parlour or at home and the meter distance to be followed at the cemetery.

Public life

  • Public may be better disciplined than the politicians. No social distancing in parliament as their sessions have no restrictions.

Shops and hospitality

  • Theatres, cinemas, casinos, night clubs and certain types of social clubs are closed.
  • Hotels where a buffet is available, food items will be served by the chef or other staff.
  • Entering shops, supermarkets, banks etc, restricted to certain numbers according to the size.
  • At some banks, customers are expected to write their names and details at the entrance. It is so in some institutions also.
  • I am not sure of public bars. Authorised clubs operate their bars with the social distancing in place. This limits the persons allowed inside to about 50%.

Travel

  • Airports receive only authorised special flights and tests are carried out, quarantine centres are available in various locations in the country where passengers are transported by the Army, all these centres are supervised by the Army. I think only certain type of passengers are tested while others have to spend 14 days in the quarantine centres. Airports are not expected to open soon.
  • Seaports are also closed. Illegal entry takes place but they are mostly caught. Thousands of expats have been brought back since May and there appears to be another 40 or 50000 waiting to get back. They are not allowed to come due to limits on quarantine centres. Until early this month from about May all positive cases were from those expats and not from the local community.

United Arab Emirates

Kirk Shanks, Lecturer in Building Services Engineering, The British University in Dubai

Overview

  • After the first round of relaxing restrictions, after a period of nationwide lockdown, when a new infection spikes occurred in a region the region was locked down to quickly stop the spread. Since then no lockdowns have been implemented.
  • Developed and checks adherence to national guidelines for reopening and operating a wide range of building/business types including public transport, i.e. metro, trams and buses.

Sanitisation

  • During the first lockdown implemented repeated national outdoor sanitisation actions of roads, streets and pavements in most areas around the UAE. This had an added advantage of reinforcing the seriousness of the pandemic amongst citizens and residents.
  • Sanitisation methods, in public and private sectors, follow up to date guidelines from the National Sanitation Foundation international (NSF) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with some language and cultural adaptation by the various municipalities.
  • Products used for disinfection of indoor and outdoor spaces, and surfaces are approved by individual municipal authorities in each Emirate.

Face masks

  • Made wearing of face masks mandatory for all people moving around outside of their homes, in public areas and at places of work. Similarly, where there is more than one household in a vehicle face masks are mandatory.

Testing and monitoring

  • UAE developed and operates a national contact tracing app called ALHOSN.
  • An increasing number of businesses, including schools, have implemented regular testing of employees typically on a rolling one or two week cycle.
  • Developed and operates a large network of national PCR and blood laser testing facilities which are integrated with the national contact tracing app.
  • Deployed multiple robotic police and health services units expanding on a pre-existing smart city network of community service units in various areas around Dubai emirate. These provide information and functions for reporting low level concerns.

Air conditioning

  • Anecdotal evidence from the MEP and Facilities Management industry notes a significant increase in clients requesting information on UV-C and HEPA filtering upgrades to air conditioning systems.
  • There is currently no position that COVID-19 is known to be airborne.. Some studies are investigating the impact of air conditioning system management in multi-residential buildings.

Travel and airports

  • Operates internal border test requirements between Abu Dhabi and Dubai Emirates with police checkpoints at all roads crossing between the two Emirates. People travelling into Abu Dhabi Emirate from Dubai are required to show a verified negative test taken within the previous 48 hours.
  • Established PCR testing units at all airports where the requirement for anyone entering UAE is to  have either a negative test result from a recognised authority in the country of departure taken in the previous 96 hours or takes a test at the airport on arrival.

Shopping and transport

  • This includes a requirement for temperature checking of all people entering shopping malls and shops many of which have deployed AI image processing systems to automatically check people’s temperatures and identify those that are considered feverish.
  • Government authorities quickly setup approval systems for specialist decontamination service providers.
  • In the initial stages of the first wave public transport services, except taxis, were stopped.
  • UAE is developing AI driven image analysis for automatic checking and alerting passengers not wearing face masks in some public transport.
  • Implemented physical perspex screens in all taxis and counters in shops, banks, public service facilities, etc.

Public gatherings

  • Postponed Dubai Expo 2020 and all associated national and international initiatives to 2021.

Industry and professions

  • Suspended distribution of all printed publications.
  • Initially the majority of industry responses, in the form of high level seminar & forum discussions, centred around the costs to businesses of implementing national guidelines and how the pandemic provided opportunities to increase the uptake of renewable energy systems and smart monitoring and management systems.
  • RICS UAE noted a major increase in requests for building inspections and life cycle enhancement studies. Only recently has there been a slow but noticeable growth in interest from the local industry and academic community to investigate the various transmission vectors in a more detailed way and to exchange knowledge and raise awareness of detailed technical issues and solutions through seminars and forums.
  • UAE construction industry remained active albeit social distancing had to be implemented and a major increase of site inspections (55,000 in one month) by Dubai Municipality.

United States of Americas

Jim Cowling, IMechE Americas Region Chair

Overview

I am only addressing the United States (US) response here, simply because that’s where I have direct experience.

Let’s not forget the important numbers, the US represents 5% of the world population yet it accounts for more than 20% of the worldwide COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Federal level response

  • Lead by the Center for Disease Control CDC which has been issuing guidance through the website. The WHO has a regional office which covers the Americas and has been providing guidance.  

State level response

  • Each State has been developing guidance and also introducing lockdowns as they see to be necessary. Some states introducing funded works to reduce COVID-19 risks in places such as schools usually on a district by district basis. For example, South Carolina has formed a task force which is developing guidance for safe return to schools.

Religious Response

  • Not very good at all with many churches desperate for large in-person gatherings.

Corporate response

  • Large business response has been generally good with extensive working from home and requirements for masks and social distancing. Smaller business response has been much more variable, particularly down at individual restaurant level.

Engineering response

Individual response

  • Generally good with most people wearing masks and respecting social distance. There are individuals who make the news and take exception to mask requirements and get ejected from airplanes etc., but certainly in Texas I’m comfortable with the effort of the local residents.

UAE 1

 

UAE5

 

UAE2

UAE4

UAE2

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 Task Force
Coronavirus

COVID-19 Task Force

  • Get involved with the work of the Committee
  • Share engineering information in the fight against Coronavirus/COVID-19
One Birdcage Walk

Reopening from Lockdown - our safety measures 

As our headquarters building and offices reopen, learn how we are working to keep our staff and visitors safe.