According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at the time of writing this blog, there are 153,648 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 5,746 deaths reported in 146 countries. China, Iran and Italy are the worst affected countries by numbers.
As a risk professional, it is a little disappointing to see the reactions that this pandemic has generated. The panic buying we have seen in Australia has been an example of a population following a herd mentality - and for the life of me, no one can explain the link between COVID-19 and toilet paper!
Is there a degree of over-reaction? In my view, yes - and driven by the disproportionate media coverage the pandemic is receiving. According to informationisbeautiful.net, when SARS was active it received 66.3 million mentions in the media. COVID-19 is already at 2.1 billion and rising!
It is little wonder people are frightened and confused.
What is more of a let down from a professional perspective is the lack of preparation by many organisations for such an event. It is not as if this is a 'black swan' type event where it has never happened before. Indeed, there have been three pandemics since the year 2000 (swine flu, avian flu and SARS).
And it's worth noting that some countries were also very slow to recognise and respond to the emerging virus.
Why weren't organisations prepared? Why didn't they learn the lessons of the past?
I guess the range of answers is as diverse as the number of organisations themselves. For some it will come down to the old chestnut of not being willing to invest money in preparedness - a short sighted approach which should have ramifications for those that permitted such decisions.
Others still will say that it hasn't happened in the time that they were in their current role - 'it hasn't happened to me before so it won't happen in future'. This of course is an extremely naive view of the world. As one of my business partners often says, 'if it hasn't happened before, then run away because it is overdue!'
There is another saying in risk management circles that goes 'never waste a good crisis'. This is not meant to sound mercenary, but rather to say that the crisis is happening anyway, so what can you do to learn from it and make sure you are better prepared in future?
It is too late to lament the failure to plan for the current pandemic.
It is not too late however to put in place a pandemic plan and activate the appropriate responses to your organisations circumstances. Not only will this help mitigate the effects of the current COVID-19 virus, but also prepare you for the inevitable future pandemic events.
My partners and I at ABM Risk Partnership can assist with this task. Please feel free to reach out for a discussion on your needs and how we can assist you with a timely, cost effective response that will minimise the threat to your people and reduce the impact on your business.