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  • Writer's pictureMichael Padilla-Pagan Pay

Dear Governments, It Shouldn’t Be This Hard

I have witnessed in combat that humans have an innate difficulty with processing exponential events, and we can see that difficulty in play now. That may explain why so many organizations are lagging in their preparations for getting people back to work safely. It is hard to blame anyone for not anticipating the full extent of the economic issues coming toward us—few of us have ever experienced an economic shock of this proportion.

We now know that speed is of the essence. It was critical to controlling the initial spread of the virus; it remains critical to stopping its spread now, and it will be critical to decisively moving onto the path to recovery. Ultimately, speed helps reduce uncertainty, which in turn will revive economic growth and lessen human suffering.

Communicating clearly to citizens and employees about actions, timelines, and expected outcomes is another critical factor. The more factual and forward looking your messages are, the faster confidence will return—and the faster economic recovery can begin.

For years I have been telling companies and speaking at conferences about social risk, and this article is further proof of the importance of understanding the local context and its possible influences on shaping, implementing and running social accountability initiatives for health purpose works. So, let me address COVID-19 and how context supports an exponential event like COVID-19 Virus.

Near zero and Local Context

I acknowledge that moving from high infection rates to a near-zero-virus situation is very hard and may be impossible in some geographies. National and local authorities are in the best position to judge how realistic it is to implement effective near-zero-virus packages short of lock-downs. But they can lean on the examples of other nations that have done it.

January 2020, Taiwan launched its version of a near-zero-virus package. It included 124 distinct measures and successfully blocked even the initial spread of the virus without a lock-down. As of early May, it has recorded fewer than 100 cases of community transmission, fewer than 450 infections, and only six deaths.

Some will say, “124 measures—that’s complex. How can that be the answer?” From my experience, I would counter this question by saying this; when uncertainty is high, answers need to be simple. If the answer is not simple and executable, it is not an effective answer. In short, I follow the Kiss theory; keep it simple and stupid.

The ease baked in to near-zero-virus packages lies in their use of known measures—ones that have been observed to be effective in reducing the probability of virus transmission in a number of geographies and contexts. Nobody knows exactly how much each element of such a package contributes to slowing virus spread, but in combination, the measures push the transmission rate to a basic reproduction number of less than one.

Near-zero packages: from the start or after the first cases show and without strict lock-downs include the following: * mandatory masks Use * testing * tracking and tracing * quarantining infected individuals and their contacts * controlling borders * modifying public-transportation frameworks

* understanding the content and context of the location

* Control and shut down misinformation Social media Bots

These packages work because of one of the characteristics of the epidemic; contagion. Given that the coronavirus is very contagious, each improvement in the infection chain makes a big difference. Wearing a face mask is more effective then social distancing. Governments and health officials states that by maintaining some distance between on another, it helps oneself from possible infection by respiratory droplets- typically spread by talking, coughing and sneezing. but here is a little critical thinking, but against those, would not a mask be able to protect you better? after all, the point of wearing a mask is to reduce the spread of droplets.

What does this mean for your organization or your country? That would depend.

There are many reasons that implementing a near-zero-virus package in your context may be near to impossible. They might include a lack of testing capacity or PPE availability, legal challenges on civil rights, privacy concerns related to contact tracing, and other societal issues. It is evident that social acceptability of near-zero-virus packages is greater in some countries. A high degree of physical distancing might already be culturally common, and there might be fewer sensitivities to accepting certain social measures in the interest of public health. It has been common for years, for example, for people in Asia and Latin America with respiratory infections to wear surgical masks to avoid infecting others.


You will know best how many elements of a near-zero-virus package you can afford and can execute on your premises. We see many companies already calculating this and moving forward. Physical-distancing and PPE-wearing measures are widespread, and some companies are building on-site testing capabilities to try to ensure safe work environments for their employees.

All those elements can also play an important role in keeping communities safe. In many countries, business leaders are collaborating on government-led efforts by joining advisory councils and coordinating the corporate portions of public-health responses to ensure consistency—and thereby accelerate progress toward near-zero-virus conditions.

The state and its administration:

It has been a challenging time for governments and their citizens alike. Fighting off the initial spread of the virus, passing huge stimulus packages to support people and businesses, and navigating a complex situation have heavily taxed the public sector’s resources, both financial and human.

Now that we have learned more—and, in many places, infection curves have at least started to flatten—governments should start focusing on crushing uncertainty. Which path is the right one? Should you push for the near-zero-virus goal? You will know best. Whichever path you choose, however, you should try to provide as much clarity and certainty as possible. Restoring confidence must be a priority.

My comment:

I do not pretend to know what is legally, socially, or financially best suited to your specific circumstances. But I believe it is worth at least including the goal of reaching a near-zero-virus objective as one of the alternatives you consider. In strategy, you need to debate alternatives in order to avoid being led astray by biases.

The stakes are high and speed is of the essence—and we would argue that everybody can pitch in.

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1 commentaire

24 mai 2020


The wisdom in your analysis and call to action is insightful and balanced

The focus on speed, decisive planned action learnt from what is working and what we can draw from our collective intelligence and experience is compelling.

A movement to push on governments to think through near zero principles and be accountable for non political action in their geography is our path through this

I love you passion and thinking

Lets take up the cause to keep spreading this as a viral set of principles

Best wishes Chris

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