As COVID-19 spreads across the world, it is vital to identify and map declared cases and the progression of the disease through affected areas. According to the Universal Postal Union (UPU), if the authorities are to reach individuals, deploy emergency services or organize the delivery of medical supplies, accurate addresses are fundamental. Such addresses are only possible through a comprehensive street plan and house numbering system displayed on maps.
UPU's Addressing and Postcode Expert Patricia Vivas said, "In Europe, mapping outbreak cases of COVID-19 and deployment of emergency services have been handled in a matter of hours in countries like Italy or Spain. A very different scenario is to be expected in less economically developed countries where the COVID-19 situation is becoming increasingly intense; however, addressing networks and mapping tools have yet to be fully implemented in many of these countries."
Address infrastructure helps in the management of information, which can be coordinated and exchanged at different levels of government, as well as during the distribution of emergency services and management of health assets. Databases that use addresses can help link location data with personal identification details and information on infected cases or vulnerable segments of the population. Examples of critical data include the total number of people living in a neighbourhood struck down by the pandemic, and the number of people, particularly elderly people, expected to be in affected areas.
The response of emergency services is time-sensitive. Identification of a location and the best route to access it are crucial for rapid responses. "Street names and house numbers greatly facilitate the ability of emergency response teams to reach an affected area. When operating in the field, the security and health personnel involved in the COVID-19 pandemic must be kept informed about the actions to be carried out and the risks of their work," stressed Vivas.
In order to make decisions about operations, existing hazards must be accounted for and a comprehensive plan designed. Integrating all of the available information, including spatial information, is a critical factor for making secure decisions. In countries affected by COVID-19, maps displaying precise outbreak areas and medical infrastructure should be made available to facilitate the identification and access of safe havens for victims and personnel.
For people in quarantine or confinement, the ability to order goods online is essential. However, deliveries need proper address information. Address networks also go far beyond the postal sector; they comprise crucial information – an underlying infrastructure upon which many other services can be built and actions planned. They are a significant step in connecting people and national authorities with rapid emergency response and resources available when a pandemic strikes.