Jane Embury looks at an unlikely legacy of the pandemic
We all think we know how Covid-19 has shaped the health of nations around the world.
For most of us, while the pandemic has changed our lives, we simply want a return to old normalities.
But Covid-19 is leaving behind some unwelcome legacies including, perhaps, a greater risk of terrorist attack.
At its most trivial, is the case of the Iowa man who was arrested earlier this year. In a phone call, he allegedly threatened to blow up a McDonald’s restaurant. The restaurant’s ‘crime’ was to neglect to include dipping sauce with his order of McNuggets.
However, not so trivial, because Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, says that mental health is an important issue in relation to terrorism and violent extremism.
It says that the situation created by the pandemic might be an additional stress factor, potentially encouraging vulnerable individuals to turn to violence.
And violence there certainly is. In 2020, there were 57 completed, failed and foiled terrorist attacks in the European Union. Those took place in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Last year also, 21 people died in terrorist attacks in the EU and 449 people were arrested on suspicion of terrorism-related offences.
Covid-19 is also adding to the background, because it has helped to pollute the social climate with violent ideologies. Europol says that polarisation of political discourse has increased in the European Union.
This has manifested itself in an increase in intolerance of political opponents, while the number of individuals conducting verbal or physical violence is also increasing.
f actual terror attacks, lone actors were behind all of them, although some jihadi terrorists were in contact with terrorist groups.
Some of them had displayed a combination of extreme ideologies and mental health issues.
In a society of social isolation, they simply were in contact with fewer people who could have picked up on signs of crisis.
Other motivating factors included the republication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, and anti-Islamic actions by some right-wing groups.
But it’s not just Islamic terrorism. The attack in Hanau, Germany in February last year was motivated by right-wing xenophobic and racist ideology.
In 2020, Italy reported 24 of the EU’s 25 left-wing and anarchist terrorist attacks. The other was in France. The attacks were mostly on private and public property such as financial institutions and government buildings.
The dynamics of Covid-19 have been hard to predict for health professionals involved in halting the spread of infection.
But less focus has been on the dynamics of isolation and mental health, and how simmering hatreds and resentments can, and yet might, boil over.
That’s a legacy we’re all going to have to live with for a very long time, and one of the best ways is to protect sensitive or public buildings.
Our expertise in the specialist area of ballistic and explosive attack developed out of our core business in the supply of advanced glazing systems.
Those are glazing systems to protect against fire, and over the years we have supplied to countries around the world.
Our security-enhanced system is designed to withstand blast pressure, while still retaining the glass within the framing profiles. This protects occupants from the blast itself and, importantly, from injury from flying glass.
It’s a versatile system, accommodating high performance anti-spall glasses to a thickness of 100mm. It also maintains slim and aesthetically pleasing sight lines, with no visual difference between protected and unprotected glazed systems.
As normality begins to return, it would be easy to be complacent in assessing what risks to protect buildings against.
But in designing or refurbishing the buildings of tomorrow, we should also heed Europol and consider today’s legacies of mental health and radicalisation.
Photo: live bomb testing