After much confusion and uncertainty, it is now known that schools will be fully reopening in the autumn after being in lockdown for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, teaching unions and parents remain concerned about the risk of transmission of the virus that is posed by a classroom environment. This is amidst warnings from some scientists of a so-called 'second wave' of the disease that could hit the UK in the autumn and winter of this year, possibly resulting in higher rates of infection than those seen in the spring. For these reasons, many schools are investigating what measures can be taken to keep their students and staff safe. However, with the sheer number of students that need to be kept safe, this is no easy task. Fortunately, by using modern technology to address the problem, we can start preventing transmission of the disease by implementing straightforward but effective measures like body temperature monitoring and thereby squash an outbreak before it begins.
The Problems Faced by Schools
As mentioned above, schools have some fairly unique obstacles in their way when it comes to protecting employees and pupils from COVID-19, owing mostly to the high numbers of people on the premises at any one time. The high number of pupils (especially in a typical secondary school) passing through a relatively small space creates a perfect opportunity for viruses to spread. This is especially true of classrooms. Without adequate ventilation (something that is quite uncomfortable in winter months), coronavirus can be easily spread around a room via airborne particles and thereby infect many people present in a class and students who use the room later on.
There is also the problem of children socialising outside of lessons, resulting in an opportunity for the virus to move between individual classes and whole year groups. Teachers aren't exempt from danger either, with staff rooms being prime areas where the virus can be passed between adults before being transferred to the children. All of this is exacerbated by the already chaotic nature of schools, with pupils moving around the building and visitors coming and going throughout office hours. All of these factors make it very difficult to stop the spread of infection once someone realises that they may have the coronavirus. This is where thermal imaging technology can play a key role.
Thermal Scanning Explained
Body temperature monitoring is a method of scanning large numbers of people in a short space of time in order to determine whether or not they have early symptoms of COVID-19. In a nutshell, the technique combines thermal cameras and specialised software to automatically read the body temperature of a passing person and then provide a warning if they look to have an abnormally high temperature. This is because one of the first warning signs of a COVID-19 infection is the individual developing a fever, which can climb to a surprisingly high level before the person begins to feel noticeably unwell. However, a body temperature monitoring system can easily detect this and flag the specific individual, allowing them to be isolated before they infect anybody else.
This detection is done via the use of thermal cameras coupled with computer displays in order to display a real-time heat image of the environment. As someone passes in front of the camera, their image will be displayed on the screen, along with an indication of whether their core body temperature is at a normal 37 degrees celsius or not. The scanners can be placed in strategic positions around a school, allowing maximum coverage of the area and analysing the highest number of people possible in order to detect a potential coronavirus case before it can spread.
The available thermal body scanners fit into several different categories. These are each best suited to particular roles and environments, giving the users the ability to build a comprehensive suite of protection for their school by mixing and matching the products as needed. Furthermore, many of the devices can be linked to desktop workstations, allowing staff to passively monitor the results of scans and take action where necessary. The first type is a terminal that stands at roughly shoulder height and can be best used to monitor choke points or entrances to smaller areas of a school. This is because of the relatively limited field of vision of the scanner. However, the intuitive, smart device-style interface makes this device easy to use and a good option for keeping watch over communal areas. Secondly, there are handheld devices, which can be carried around by individuals and used to scan people as needed. Individual teachers could use these to test class members as they enter the room, providing a second line of defense against infection. Lastly come mounted cameras, which can be installed on walls in order to monitor large areas with high volumes of traffic. By placing these in an elevated vantage point, they can rapidly scan large numbers of students and staff as they move across the premises.
Although thermal body scanning technology is extremely effective, if it is not paired with an effective plan and set of procedures, then the results will be lacking. It is imperative for educators to make sure they have plans in place for dealing with the threat posed by coronavirus to their pupils and staff. this includes the proper use of social distancing where possible and the use of masks and disinfectant.
Proper positioning of the devices themselves is key, with entrances, hallways and chokepoints within the school building being the best areas to set up a thermal scanning device. There should also be a clear set of directives in place regarding how to deal with a student that is identified as being a possible COVID-19 carrier (i.e. isolation, testing and eventual reintroduction). It is worth bearing in mind that thermal body scanning is by its very nature impartial, using clearly presented data to determine if someone poses a risk or not. This can go a long way towards resolving disputes between staff and parents of pupils who may find themselves asked to stay at home due to the risk of them transmitting the virus to others.
Although schools have suffered greatly during the pandemic thus far, with closures and exams uncertainty putting great strain on teachers and pupils alike, things do not have to be the same going forward. By leveraging modern technology to combat the virus, we can make our learning environments much safer than before. The products offered by ANT are designed with modularity in mind, meaning that any school can select the options they need to meet their particular needs and get expert advice in the process. By adopting a suite of thermal scanning devices, a school can easily increase confidence amongst staff and students, letting them push the virus to the back of their minds and instead concentrate on their studies.