Here, some useful suggestions against COVID-19 are given by Prof. Junyi Zhang, prepared since early April, 2020.
Urgent Recommendations for Transport Policies under the COVID-19 Pandemic (Details: here)
DIRECT approach for pandemics, post-pandemic resilient and sustainable development, disasters and crises, etc.
The DIRECT approach includes six steps: (1) Detect, (2) Inform/Intervene, (3) React, (4) Enlighten/Enforce/Evaluate, (5) Collaborate, and (6) Transfer. The DIRECT approach is developed from research on how to control the COVID-19 pandemic and how to achieve post-pandemic recovery. Controlling the current pandemic and promoting resilient and sustainable development in the post-pandemic era requires transformative thinking. DIRECT is an integrated approach that emphasizes policy making and implementation process management, not only for solving problems during the pandemic, but also addressing post-pandemic resilience and sustainable development. In theory, this approach can also be applied to disasters and crises, etc. An illustration of this approach and its application to carbon reduction in the transport sector can be found: here.
Detect: Early, quick and widespread detection of infected persons and risky behaviors (e.g., going to crowded spaces or traveling to endemic areas) is crucial to control the spread of COVID-19. In this regard, smart technologies can be used to effectively and efficiently detect spatiotemporal trajectories of activity-travel behaviors of infected and susceptible persons. Technologically, it is challenging to use various smart technologies. Using smart technologies also needs to address ethical and legal challenges, such as preserving individual privacy while maintaining the usefulness of data for public access. Methodologically, it is necessary to capture all possible behaviors that are deemed to be risky. In this regard, it is crucial to automatically generate seamless spatiotemporal trajectories of activity-travel behaviors (based on the activity-based approach and the life-oriented approach (Zhang, 2017)) in order to avoid any serious memory issues in reporting behaviors based on paper-pencil surveys. Similarly, it is also important to detect unsustainable behaviors (e.g., excessive use of cars, excessive consumption of energy) to effectively promote post-pandemic sustainable development.
Inform/Intervene: There are two types of decision-making: informed and uninformed. People may modify their risky and unsustainable behaviors by themselves, without any external interventions. This is called uninformed decision-making. Because there are so many unknowns and uncertainties about pandemics and sustainable development, people need to be informed about how they could “improve” their decisions with a (more) sustainable outcome. In other words, informed decision-making is required. All the above-detected risks and risky behaviors as well as unsustainable behaviors should be communicated to the public and various stakeholders. Informed decision-making via interventions needs to be better supported by effective communications between policymakers and informed subjects (e.g., individuals, firms).
React: Whether interventions are effective or not depends on whether people react or respond in an expected way. Informed decision-making aims to change people’s behaviors. Behavioral changes are affected by various factors, such as awareness and attitudes, norms, beliefs, perceived behavior control, and habits, as suggested by socio-psychological theories. Successful interventions require an innovative framework to comprehensively identify the key socio-psychological factors that influence risky and unsustainable habits of lifestyles, business styles, and organizational styles, etc. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that a variety of behaviors are coupled, with implications for resilience and sustainable development. This suggests that behavioral interventions need to address behavioral interactions at the individual, community, and larger scales.
Enforce/Enlighten/Evaluate: People’s decisions are context-dependent and change over time. Even though an expected change (reaction) is observed, it may not last for a sufficiently long period. If a behavior cannot occur in an expected way, even via various “soft” interventions, it may need to be enforced using legal and/or economic instruments. To make behavioral changes more sustainable, voluntary behavioral changes which encourage the individual to select the more “enlightened” option (from a sustainability perspective) should be highlighted. Whether enforced/enlightened behavioral changes bring expected outcomes needs to be properly evaluated. Evaluation is required at each step of the DIRECT approach, based on scientifically sound evidence. Willingness and acceptance, preparedness and capacity, effectiveness and efficiency, goal orientation and benchmarking, costs and benefits, and so on, should be fully reflected in the evaluation process.
Collaborate: All stakeholders should collaborate to control the current COVID-19 pandemic and better manage post-pandemic sustainable development. Different governmental sectors need to collaborate to overcome sectoral barriers. The public sector needs collaboration/cooperation with the private sector to enhance policymaking efficiency and effectiveness – understanding the economic and social impact of policy – while the private sector needs collaboration/cooperation with the public sector to avoid market failures. Communities also need to be involved in order to successfully implement policy measures. People’s pro-social attitudes, norms, and beliefs are the foundation of collaboration and cooperation. Such socio-psychological factors also play key roles in the aforementioned behavioral changes related to reactions.
Transfer: Both successful and unsuccessful experiences during the pandemic must be transferred to the post-pandemic sustainable (community) development. Experiences of the post-pandemic sustainable (community) development in one target area may be transferred to other areas, if appropriate. For the current pandemic, various lessons could have been better learned from history. However, the long-lasting continuing growth of infections worldwide indicates that lessons from the previous pandemics have not been effectively transferred to current pandemic practices. It is also true in the case of many sustainable development policies. Transferability of policymaking and scientific insights is indispensable, not only to achieve policy goals but also to advance science.
PASS approach that addresses the impacts of COVID-19 on the transport sector
This PASS approach is proposed as a comprehensive methodology for making transport policy measures for the during/after COVID-19 pandemic.
Zhang, J. (2020) Transport policymaking that accounts for COVID-19 and future public health threats: A PASS approach, Transport Policy, 99, 405-418. (Open Access)
[P] What’s most important is to prepare well for public health crises. Guidelines, contingency plans, and economic and institutional measures should be made by transport operators and governments before pandemics occur, while transport users should also be well informed and make similar preparations: e.g., to form anti-virus lifestyle and habits. When a pandemic occurs, it is first necessary to protect both transport users and service providers, based on the above preparations. This further includes at least two steps: before the pandemic starts in a country/region and before the pandemic starts in a city/town of the country/region. Even for the current COVID-19 pandemic, people have suffered from various fake and unreliable information about the virus, its impacts, and its countermeasures. Therefore, it is important and necessary to provide reliable and timely information, via organizations in charge of the management of such information.
[A] At early stages of pandemics, trip makers need to avoid visiting crowded places and using crowded public transport as much as possible. Transport operators need to avoid operating crowded vehicles and platforms. Governments are required to avoid making unstable policy decisions and providing inconsistent information. Government officers need to avoid behaving against their instructions to the general public (e.g., do not wear masks even though the general public are requested to wear them). For this, government officers’ and other decision makers’ behaviors under pandemics must be enforced, for example, via making guidelines regarding behaviors (what people should and should not do) with strict punishment rules for violations. Trip makers need to adjust their activity schedules to reduce infection risk. Transport operators need to adjust their operation tasks and schedules. Governments need to make adjustments across governmental departments and across sectors for taking and implementing more effective policy measures. Needless to say, the prepared measures may also need adjustments, depending on whether and how much the new virus behaves in accordance with expectations.
[S] As the pandemic progresses, people who have to make trips need to shift their trip timings (e.g., staggered working hours) or modes (e.g., shift from public transport to other modes) to reduce infection risks. At the same time, trip makers need to pay sufficient attention to space sharing with others. Because of the need for the above avoidance, adjustment, and shift, people need to think about sharing their job responsibilities with others for preparing for the next sets of actions. To make the protection measures work effectively, transport users need to share their health information. Transport operators need to shift to the operation system under pandemics based on prepared measures (guidelines and contingency plans). Governments need to shift to pandemic-focused governance measures, such as restrictions on mobility and collection of private health information. Transport operators should restrict space sharing. Different operators may need to share their operation resources, for example, in case of the absence of infected staff. Governments need to promote shared economy under pandemics, for example, shared mobility (e.g., use taxi to deliver goods), by deregulating or temporarily amending laws. Under such deregulated systems, transit operators may use their unoccupied vehicles to transport goods.
[S] When the pandemic becomes more serious, people have to stop or substitute activities involving trips. Governments need to make policies and regulations that allow or force transport operators to stop service operation. Based on this, transport operators judge whether or not to stop operation of their services or follow the enforcement. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen so many political complaints and bickering, which waste valuable time and detract attention from efforts to fight the pandemic. Such political arguments are useless and therefore must be stopped. Governments need to substitute face-to-face governmental procedures with online procedures. Substitution between transport modes may also be necessary.
The PASS approach targets transport users and service providers, as well as governments. While this PASS approach is crucial and important for successful transport measures against pandemics, its implementation may bring about various negative impacts on these groups and possibly the whole society. To address this, proper protection measures (e.g., economic and institutional measures) should be taken by governments and transport operators.
Thus, this PASS approach targets transport users and service providers as well as governments. The four elements ‘P’, ‘A’, ‘S’, and ‘S’ correspond to different situations of the pandemic. In the above paper [Zhang, J. (2020)], there is a table summarizing examples of policy measures against COVID-19 in the transport sector, which the Japanese version is shown here.
for surviving COVID-19
Junyi Zhang (2021) People’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic during its early stages and factors affecting those responses. Nature – Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 8: 37, https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-021-00720-1 (Open Access)
Zhang, Junyi, How Did People Respond to the Covid-19 Pandemic During its Early Stage? A Case Study in Japan (May 7, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3595063
Various behavioral changes have been observed during the pandemic. Some changes may continue and new changes may be expected after the pandemic. In either case, behavioral changes beneficial to sustainable development must be promoted.
It is unknown at all how long we will have to stay at home for mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Life has to go on, however. The economy here and there will be gradually re-opened; however, it is difficult to expect a full-scale re-opening. For a while, we have to live together with this virus. To avoid/mitigate the infection risk, social distancing has to be better practiced. Therefore, we have to re-think what kinds of essential needs in life [L] we have to meet and accordingly to re-design our daily life schedule. Based on the re-designed life schedule, we have to further carefully think about what kinds of out-of-home or out-of-office activities [A] we have to perform, at what kinds of places with sufficient space [S], and at what kind of timing [TING] (both duration and timing: to perform activities as shorter as possible and to shift departure timing). In other words,Private sectors have to remarkably adapt their business styles to future public health threats or other catastrophic events, and governments have to seriously learn more lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and other historical events and prepare scientific-evidence-based contingency plans.
, because after experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, people may dramatically change their lifestyles by paying more attention to the environment. More and more people may re-think about their needs in life [L] for arranging daily activities [A] at proper space [S] and at proper timing [TING]. For example, if more and more people recognize that meanings of life and happiness are not necessarily linked with the continuous pursuit of money and resource-intensive consumption, they may start to redefine what they actually need in life [L]. If talking with a friend at home via WhatsApp or WeChat can meet a higher-order need that was used to be met by taking a car to visit a plaza in the city center, then online talking becomes an environmentally-friendly activity [A]. If neighborhood spaces [S] are sufficiently attractive, people may not need to often visit a suburban shopping center by car. If staggered working hours [TING] can be widely introduced, peak-hour traffic congestion will be significantly mitigated. More research efforts should be made from such a LASTING perspective.
Urgent recommendation: How to prevent/mitigate the infection of COVID-19 from an activity-travel perspective?
By Junyi Zhang on April 7, 2020
[NOTE: The following measures must not be applied in those cities/areas that are on lockdown]
- The best method: to make no trip, conditional on that there are no serious impacts on daily life. This is because no trip means no social contacts at physical places.
- Needless to say, this is not applicable to those who have to make trips for survival.
- The second best method: to reduce the trip frequency, in case that some trips must be made for meeting needs in life. This is because a reduced trip frequency indicates a reduced risk of infecting or being infected.
- The third best method: if trips must be made every day, walking/bicycling and car/motorcycle are recommended. This is because these travel modes almost have no direct contact with other persons during travel. BUT, do not use a shared car!
- Using more cars is not beneficial to traffic congestion and environmental improvements. Such negative effects may be canceled out due to reduced trip generation.
- The fourth best method: if trips must be made by the use of public transport, booking-based public transport should be provided. This is because such a booking system allows service providers to guarantee sufficient social distances between users.
- The progress of the current development of smart technologies makes this method feasible.
- The worst method: to use very crowded public transport.
- Some people have to use public transport. For this, the use of public transport must be better controlled: either to limit the users (by adjusting the demand over time) or to increase the capacity, for keeping proper social distance.
- The most effective way is to soon introduce public transport being exclusive to online booking users: (1) users: to book public transport online before making a trip; (2)service provider: to control the demand of each vehicle depending on the booking; (3) with this online service, to gradually attract more users to use this online public transport service.
- for example, if a person travels for a gathering with many persons, even though walking/bicycling, car or booked public transport is used, the entire risk of the whole activity-travel process will increase because of the participation in the gathering. Thus, activity-based transport measures should be taken. In other words, to reduce the risk of infecting or being infected for a person, the whole process of activity participation and the trip making must be reflected.
- one more example: if a person has to work at a factory and the factory’s working areas are large enough to guarantee sufficient social distances between workers and ventilation, the factory may provide a tentative rest area for their workers’ sleeping at night without traveling from and returning back to homes.
- Preparedness is important:
- Walking and cycling are said to be beneficial to health. From such a viewpoint, transportation planning resulting in more use of walking and cycling is expected to play an important role in preventing/mitigating the infection risk of COVID-19.
- People who have a healthy lifestyle are more likely to use a walk and bicycle. Forming a healthy lifestyle usually involves complicated decision-making processes of various life choices. For realizing such a lifestyle, policymaking based on a life-oriented approach should be promoted. Such policymaking needs to involve stakeholders from different sectors.
- The use of smart technologies allows people to meet various needs in life without making a trip: e.g., telework, online shopping, food delivery via online order, online learning, online medical treatment. These technologies are already available and should be promoted more widely.
- Some transport-connected aspects must be paid enough attention:
- More people means more social contacts. Unfortunately, one cannot deny that the rapid growth of megacities all over the world has helped the spread of COVID-19. In this sense, the megacity-centered urban growth in both developed and developing countries must be re-considered seriously. Instead, the development of local cities/towns should be promoted. Accordingly, public policies encouraging more population migration from megacities to local cities are expected to mitigate the impacts of public health threats like COVID-19.
How to make effective transport measures for preventing/mitigating the infection of COVID-19?
By Junyi Zhang on April 7, 2020
- Public health experts should provide scientific evidence of how many social contacts must be reduced for flattening the spread curve of COVID-19 infection at different spread stages. Accordingly, a robust and reliable prediction is required. This is not easy but has to be done, at least to provide an interval estimation with a certain high confidence level. One more thing is that the infection risk (probability) for a certain passenger density should be predicted: without such a prediction, it is difficult for transport policymakers to clarify how much passenger transport volume must be reduced and voluntary behavioral changes via effective measures cannot be expected, consequently. With the inputs from public health experts, transport experts need to predict the transmission risks via transport flow. Without such joint efforts, effective transport measures with high public acceptance cannot be made, until the lockdown is ordered.
- It is understandable that public health experts are fighting at the frontier of the war against COVID-19. HOWEVER, no transport and other experts have been involved in making measures of flattening the spread curve of COVID-19. This is VERY strange. Probably because of such absence of transport experts, it was first reported on April 6, 2020, that the Japanese government prepared to request railway companies to reduce the train operation frequency if an emergency declaration is made, but later on, it was confirmed that the trains will be operated as usual, even the declaration is made.
- Needless to say, whether and how much public transport services should be reduced or not depends on whether and how many operation staff are infected. Now, some Japanese railway companies said that they may cut some services depending on passenger demands. If this is the case, it is a really bad practice for preventing/mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Conditional on proper compensation incentives, railway companies should work together with the government to operate the transport service in consideration of social distancings.
Possible measures to replace travel
By Junyi Zhang on April 7, 2020
- Zero-trip measures
- Work/Study at home: If allowed, this should be the best method to prevent the infection of COVID-19, via telework, e-learning. Shortcomings are, (1) loneliness for single-member households, (2) reduced productivity that is usually created via interactions, (3) loss of business that is usually created via direct communication with customers, and (4) conflicts of job/study with family life, in the case of multi-member family, etc.
- Online shopping instead of shopping at stores
- Food delivery instead of eating out
- Online meetings instead of face-to-face meetings
- Online social networking instead of social networking via party
- Measures with a postponement of activities
- Tourism, leisure, and some discretionary activities can be performed after the pandemic.
- Measures with reduced trip frequency
- People usually go shopping frequently for purchasing fresh foods. Under such a pandemic, it is not a big deal to reduce shopping frequency with bulk buying, if people have to go shopping at stores. This can also be applied to other activities.
- Measures with reduced trip distance
- By changing activity destinations, people can reduce trip distances for performing the same activity.
- Measures with fewer social contacts
- There are surely many issues to cut social contacts, especially in the business world. However, the rapid progress of the current smart technologies has replaced many face-to-face contacts without worsening the quality of contacts. Therefore, face-to-face social contacts can be reduced.