Historically logistics has operated behind the scenes. Today, with the global adoption of sweeping measures to control the spread of coronavirus, it’s on the front lines.

The impact on the global supply chain of hundreds of millions of people now depending on deliveries for their essentials is hard to miss. In April the cost to move freight by air rose by more than 200% on some intra-Asia routes. In the USA many postal service employees have seen their workload double. The internet traffic to Ocado, a British delivery company, spiked so high in March that it thought hackers had launched a distributed denial-of-service attack.

This demand for delivery has resulted in a higher health risk for everyone keeping supplies moving. Every worker falling ill or needing to self-isolate adds more pressure to supply chains that are already stretched. This poses a major challenge for an employer: how can we protect our workforce and the public and maintain the supply of essential goods?

The New Normal

In recent weeks we’ve seen much progress on this front. Apple and Google's Bluetooth-based system and Singapore’s TraceTogether are perhaps the best known. However, at this stage, none of these apps can accurately assess the potential risks from packages or parcels.

In the years since we founded Quincus, we’ve benefited hugely from the hundreds of hours we’ve spent riding alongside delivery drivers. The insights we gained from them have provided the foundations for our work and our technology wouldn’t be the same without them. Thanks in large part to the insights we learned from those men and women we’ve been able to create a system that provides real-time supply chain visibility.

We built it so that we could help remove bottlenecks, identify underperforming hubs, and track down lost packages. However, when coronavirus arrived, we soon realised that its ability to track and trace every single package through the chain of custody could help keep workers safe. If someone reports coronavirus symptoms, we can identify each package they’ve interacted with and notify any recipients or colleagues who could be affected. Current research suggests coronaviruses can only survive on the most common packages for a short time, but for us this isn’t a risk worth taking.

If you’re trying to manage this challenge with manual processes, intuition, or spreadsheets, you’re going to find it nearly impossible to provide employees or costumers with the peace of mind they need.

Supply chains are stretched and it’s going to be many months before we can fully return to normal. Each and every one of us has a part to play helping to stop coronavirus’s spread, and every opportunity we miss to halt its progress pushes that date back even further.

Jonathan Savoir is Co-founder & CEO, and Katherina Lacey is Co-founder & CPO at Quincus.