Category Archives: Health

Back to Work: Risk Management in a Time of COVID

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, governments worldwide have opted to confine citizens to their homes. Forcing physical distancing among the population is a strategy of risk avoidance geared towards reducing the likelihood of the virus’ transmission.

In these uncertain times, when so-called “non-essential businesses” are banned from operating, small and medium companies must begin planning now for their eventual return to normal operation once confinement is over. Enterprises with limited resources must become familiar with the concepts of crisis and risk management; otherwise, they risk remaining permanently shut down.

After governments worldwide passed emergency legislation to stop the virus’ spread, companies came face-to-face with the new reality of confinement, which severely restricted operations and displaced employees. One day however, this quarantine will be over and workers will have to return to the workplace. Before this happens, all companies should develop a well-assessed and gradual return to normalcy introduced through phases.

Phase 1 – Observation

After weeks of confinement, citizens and businesses alike might react like a bull charging into the arena once the ban is lifted. Being deprived of simple freedoms like interacting with family and friends drives the desire for returning to normalcy. However, relaxing restrictions and a false sense of security from the viral threat will increase the likelihood of disease transmission. A rise in new cases will follow people as they return to work.

Risk management requires establishing an observation period of the disease’s impact on those wishing to return to work quickly. This observation period is necessary to monitor how the situation evolves as well as to analyze best practices from around the world. This phase should last at least two weeks (the estimated quarantine period for COVID-19) after the end of confinement enforcement.

Phase 2 – Kick-Off

Businesses should not attempt to return to regular operation without a proper mitigation plan in place, especially as staff return to shared workspaces. Companies have a duty to ensure their staff stay healthy and should, therefore, plan additional protective measures.

Evaluate and analyze multiple risks, identifying the most suitable treatment strategies to minimize the existing uncertainty. These strategies should consider (among other things): the number and type of staff physically returning to perform essential tasks; employees in specific risk groups (such as the elderly or those with pre-existing health conditions); and the returning staff’s willingness to share spaces. Managers should plan for shift work for selected staff; know how staff commute to work and develop plans to mitigate the risks of public transportation; and establish protocols for decontamination of public areas and use of personal protection equipment.  Managers should continuously review and draft new processes and operating procedures as the world learns more about this virus.

Phase 3 – Presence Escalation

A business’s most valuable resource is its staff and should avoid putting all of its assets at risk. As companies recover, gradually allowing employees to return while others continue to telework is a valuable strategy.

Additionally, preserving a clean working environment is more vital than ever. Any employee or third-party entering the workplace poses a risk of disease transmission and contamination. New standard operating procedures should include separate decontamination protocols for visitors and be strictly enforced. Social distancing inside the working environment should also be clearly defined and incorporated into these procedures.

Eventually, additional risk mitigation procedures, such as COVID-19 antibody tests that can indicate a person’s immunity to the disease, will be available to the general public. Until then, the above strategies will help prevent a resurgence of the disease as employees gradually return to work. This phase could take weeks or even months but should be completed before any return to full operational capacity.

Phase 4 – Long-Term Treatment

Western countries must enhance preventative measures and modify risk tolerance towards health crises. This means changing our social, cultural, and work habits, especially towards personal hygiene and proximity to others.

Most forecasting at the beginning of this crisis proved to be wrong or imprecise. It is difficult to forecast what may come in the next months, but health specialists believe a second, and even recurrent waves of COVID-19 infections could occur. We can only assume that access to tests and vaccines will be made available in the near term. However, we are not there yet, and other risk avoidance strategies must remain in place for now.

Proper planning for a return to normalcy is necessary as solidarity soars, and we prepare to weather this storm together.


Victor Perez Sañudo is a Law Enforcement Officer with over two decades of professional experience in security and risk management worldwide, having worked for the EU, NATO, OSCE and the United Nations in the five continents. Victor is certified Risk Management Professional C31000 by ISO 31000:2018 and certified Director of Security by the Spanish Ministry of Interior.

The Cloud Over Africa: Corona Virus

As the 2019 Corona Virus Disease ravages the most developed economies of the world, Africans wait for its inevitable arrival on their shores. The prospect of an extremely virulent and deadly respiratory disease like COVID getting loose on the continent causes a great deal of trepidation. Africa has some of the poorest and least developed health infrastructure on the planet. In parts, its societies are ravaged by malaria, polluted environments, war, and poverty stricken cities with some of the highest population densities in the world. Africa lags behind the rest of the globe in nearly every measurable medical statistic. If and when COVID takes hold there, it seems inevitable it will quickly overwhelm health services and attack an unprotected population as it is doing in Bergamo, New York, and Madrid. COVID may seem like a dark cloud hanging over all of us but perhaps it is just a bit darker over Africa.

The reality is, COVID has already arrived on African soil. As of 2 April there were over 6200 confirmed cases in 51 African countries. Though the vast majority are in just three nations: South Africa, Algeria, and Egypt; distribution across the continent is spreading quickly. Hundreds of cases in Africa’s poorest and least stable countries are perhaps cause for even greater concern. In one example of what could lie ahead, 8.9 percent of the total cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo have already died of the disease.

The State of Africa

Africa holds a precarious position when it comes to health infrastructure that matters in the fight against COVID. Last in almost every measure, only three of Africa’s 54 nations (Mauritius, Libya, and Tunisia) have more than one doctor per 1000 citizens. Only twelve have more than one hospital bed per 1000 citizens and none of those are the densely populated countries around the continent’s periphery. By comparison, Italy, scene of one of the world’s worst COVID outbreaks, has 3.4 hospital beds per 1000. The numbers do not favor the sick.

Diseases like COVID spread faster in areas of high population density and Africa’s urban population tends to be very densely packed. Cities in the Sahel and West Africa have around 5000 residents per square kilometer. The large cities on the Mediterranean averaging about 8000. Cairo, Kinshasa, Mogadishu, and Asmara top the list with 15,000-25,000 people per square kilometer. (By contrast, Washington DC has only about 4000 per square kilometer.)

Though sparse population will slow the disease’s progression in the vast rural parts of Africa, those are precisely the areas with the least access to modern sanitation and health care. A 2012 study by the World Health Organization found 17.9% of respondents in all the sites surveyed, depended on traditional healers for their primary health care. Worse, some of these areas feature migratory populations that could continue to spread COVID for years.

Africa is not ready for Corona Virus
Disease tracking technology in a remote part of the Sahel. African states are poorly prepared for the onslaught of Corona Virus Disease.

Corona Virus Cloud

In more developed parts of the world, governments have the capacity to significantly impact the spread of COVID. Aside from health measures that directly prevent spread of the virus, such as issuing personal protective equipment for health workers, and organizing vast testing regimes, strong states can also enforce effective social distancing measures. Most African states however are not so capable and in some cases lack credibility with their own constituents. Most African governments are not even trying at this point.

In an effort to quantify and compare government responses to the pandemic, the Blavatnik School at Oxford University developed a system to combine 11 indicators into a common “stringency index.” As of 31 March, only seven African nations even registered on the index and of those, only two (Rwanda and Zimbabwe) had more stringent responses than the United States whose response is on the low end of the scale.

It is clear a disaster looms in Africa in the coming weeks. The situation leaves little reason to believe African cities will be spared the dramas we see in Bergamo, Guayaquil, and Madrid, but with far less ability to deal effectively with the results. In rural areas the disease may progress more slowly with a significantly flattened curve but with almost no modern health infrastructure in place in some areas, there is little chance the disease will even be tracked let alone treated. With so many countries around the world overwhelmed by the pandemic, hoping for international aid seems forlorn. Africa will be on its own.

On a continent that remembers the responses to Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), COVID hangs like a dark cloud on the horizon. Perhaps the only ray of light is that Africa’s cities, as unprepared as they are, may actually arrive at an equilibrium with the disease — sometimes called “herd immunity” — far sooner than European and American cities will. Reaching that point however will incur a cost in lives and pain that few can foresee and none deserve.


Lino Miani, CEO Navisio Global LLC

Lino Miani is a retired US Army Special Forces officer, author of The Sulu Arms Market, and CEO of Navisio Global LLC.