Cedric Stephens | Nonchalant pandemic policy | Business
I have never posted a comment on Twitter. This is even though I had an account for many years. Despite this, I visit the platform daily, reading messages posted by others.
The situation may change, depending on the actions of Mr. Elon Musk. News reports say he’s buying it.
This is my first Twitter-inspired post, courtesy of former Jamaican Senator and High Commissioner to the UK, Aloun Ndombet-Assamba. The 27-word post, along with a photograph, her face covered in dark glasses, an N95 mask and a distinctive low hairstyle, spoke of the smart actions she is taking to protect herself from COVID-19.
Its risk mitigation strategy was fully exposed. These actions contrast with what lawyer and newspaper columnist Gordon Robinson last Tuesday called “the country’s open invitation to the BA.2 variant to come in and kill as many of our irresponsible people as possible.” I would have argued that the government recently passed a laissez-faire policy in the face of the pandemic, two years after his arrival on the island.
What are the implications of the government’s current strategy for businesses, private and public sectors, other entities and institutions – most of which do not practice risk management as part of their day-to-day operations? Do they have plans to manage future outbreaks, with the removal of public health measures? Will they act responsibly? Only one local business, to my knowledge, revealed that they had implemented their pandemic mitigation strategy at the onset of COVID-19.
The insurance industry – life and non-life – deals with risk management. Has he considered the implications of changing government policy as Mr. Robinson has? I have seen no indication from its members that the risk management process is being used as a tool to reinforce lessons that should have been learned when the pandemic was raging. Unfortunately, I will have to rely on foreign sources for this information.
Pandemic-related risks were among the most concerning macroeconomic risks, according to a 2021 study conducted in the United States by Australian insurer QBE. The most surprising thing about the survey, which involved mid-sized companies – with average annual sales of between US$10 million and US$1 billion – was that many of them had no plans to manage future outbreaks of the virus. This was in an environment where two-thirds of the US population is fully immunized.
Jamaica is a relative newcomer to risk management. So it’s safe to assume that most businesses, other organizations, and institutions, like midsize US businesses, don’t have plans to handle future outbreaks. The World Health Organization reports that 23.1% of the island’s population is fully vaccinated.
Research published last August showed that the likelihood of new disease outbreaks would triple over the next few decades and that there is a 2% chance that a pandemic with a similar impact to COVID will occur each year. Gabriel Katul, PhD, Theodore S. Coile Professor Emeritus of Hydrology and Micrometeorology at Duke University and one of the study’s authors, said, “When a 100-year flood occurs today, we can erroneously assume that we can afford to wait another 100 years before experiencing another such event. This impression is false. We may have another 100-year flood next year.
“It is imperative,” two QBE North America executives wrote in the April 20, 2022 issue of Risk & Insurance, “that companies have business continuity plans and mitigation strategies in place when, and not yes, the next global health crisis is happening. This can not only save the vitality of a business in the event of an event, but it can also be a competitive advantage.
Leaders highlighted six areas that should be considered in developing future pandemic mitigation plans: employee health and safety; ensure that clients are in good health; cybersecurity related to remote work; supply chain issues; a pandemic could force changes to the business model; and maintaining the organization’s physical premises.
If the probability of an event like COVID-19 occurring is 2% in any given year, shouldn’t “liberation” be interpreted in that context and, more importantly, planning for the next event should start now?