Coronavirus scenarios and the timeline ahead
First Published on 29th March 2020
by Tom Warneke
Global| Fostering Growth & Opportunity| Resolving Incidents & Crisis
Coronavirus globally has changed life as we know it. Businesses are closing, large gatherings are prohibited and everybody’s learning how best to work from home. The biggest question on everyone’s mind is: When will this all end?
We’ve explored several timeline scenarios that are possible in the road ahead.
While no one has a crystal ball and different regions and countries will all have differing timelines. The medical response is when approximately 70% of the population has grown resistant to COVID-19. When we reach this level, person to person transmission becomes a lesser issue and this is the ultimate goal.
Given that the ultimate goal is to reduce person to person transmission, there’s two possibilities here. Firstly is through the development of a vaccine, secondly is through simply letting it run it’s course and as a global society we pay the toll for this through fatalities and illness but also a high degree of immunity once those who contract the disease and recover become immune.
There’s a number of labs and universities working globally to develop vaccines but these are likely to be at least twelve months away. Likewise, if we follow the second path and allow the outbreak to run its course, we’re also likely to need over twelve months to see a statistical variance.
Most people however aren’t looking for statistical variance, they’re looking for a return their societal norms. This might be restaurants reopening or at the very least, being able to see family and friends again.
Due to the widespread economic benefits, governments too are looking for these triggers to know when to start returning life to normal. It may well be that we see a globally phased response. Perhaps that’s reduced capacities in restaurants or people being allowed to return to the office. It’s unlikely that mass gatherings and events are at the top of the list however things like public transport are likely to be the first things returned to service.
What to do right now
No matter what advice or predictions might be appearing, physical distancing and staying home is the key to long term change and is the way forward right now.
While the likes of U.S. President Trump has expressed a desire to reopen the country by Easter, moving back to normality at this time would be disastrous.
Scenario One: 1–2 Months
This being the most unlikely scenario.
Several experts raised weeks ago the possibility that we might discover Coronavirus simply isn’t as bad as first thought. This contention has clearly been debunked.
The disastrous way by which Coronavirus plays out in the next 1–2 months is through mass casualties. If we see a massive amount of critical infections in the coming weeks and months, health care systems will be overwhelmed and massive amounts of people will die. It’s possible that through a massive critical event like this, the remaining population would recover and demonstrate heard immunity.
Either way, these could mean that it’s possible to somewhat resume normal life (and leave your house).
The key issue affecting us now is that we can’t tell the medium to longterm affects on the healthcare system. After several weeks and months, pubic health authorities and hospitals will have a better understanding of how their systems operate as well as the epidemiology and infection rates and timings.
Scenario Two: 3–4 Months
This timeline is what we’re currently looking toward.
In this timeline, global health bodies and the World Health Organisation are likely to make advancements in research and understanding around the virus making returning to daily life more probably. Added to this, given the current rate of infection, globally we will have significant immunity levels within populations. With these immunity levels comes a large quantity of asymptotic cases but also sadly, a high level of critical ones and a growing amount of fatalities.
The months of testing after four months will also give a strong body of research. Through this research as well as isolating contagious and vulnerable members of the population, we may be able to allow the non-vulunerable sections of the population back to some form of normal life.
It may also be that we start to see regional differences (as we’re currently starting to see in Asia versus Europe for example) where Asia is slowly getting back to normality while Italy and Spain continuing to decline.
An increase in testing (both in terms of quantity but also the quality and speediness of testing) means we’re also able to have a better, more complete picture of the global Coronavirus outbreak, providing better information to equip some societies to start to resume.
It’s also possible that in 3–4 months, researchers may have identified treatments and ways to treat symptoms and prevent deaths. Not a vaccine but rather better treatment protocols. Social distancing would still be required as mass outbreaks could still occur but it’s possible that healthcare systems might be able to cope (Rather than being overwhelmed).
Global growth decelerates and the world economy continues to decline even with major national and regional interventions.
For the most part, if managed properly, the security situation should remain stable though local law enforcement response capacities are likely to decline if left unchecked.
We need to be mindful of economic and security impacts. Security situations are likely to deteriorate in harder hit regions and civil unrest is likely to rise as people become agitated at the ongoing crisis. We may also see a rise in nationalism and thus see a rise on attacks against foreigners and foreign companies.
Scenario Three: Until the end of 2020
This will depend on regional and national case rates however where declines aren’t seen, it’s likely that social distancing and working from home protocols will remain.
Let’s assume that most countries are able to demonstrate a gradual decline in cases. If that’s the case it’s possible that in the right conditions, in order to demonstrate some level of normality, major sporting events may return without crowds. In the best case, bars and restaurants may be able to reopen albeit with less tables and perhaps even outdoor activities could resume.
It’s likely mass gatherings and events would still be cancelled and numbers would be strictly enforced in places like parks, gardens or beaches to ensure social distancing. Large crowds simply aren’t likely for some time.
Small group engagements might be relatively safe and possible again such as dinner with family and friends and some travel restrictions may ease. This sort of easing is also likely to be heavily regulated and predicated on the public to “do the right thing” with authorities being quick to suspend these if they’re being abused.
The hope is that within this time, people will have developed an immunity (sometimes referred to as a ‘herd immunity’). We’ll also have a much larger body of research with which to refer.
But in the event that we don’t see a gradual decline and cases continue to climb, it’s possible we may still be under the same distancing restrictions and lockdowns that we’re in now.
The only chance for these restrictions to be eased is if we can demonstrate that medical systems and hospitals can cope and that they won’t be overwhelmed.
It’s possible still that socialising the work may resume but warnings to not touch your face along with a plentiful amount of hand washing is likely to stay. Put simply, it’ll go back to a more honesty-system approach — those who can work from home and avoid going out would continue to do so.
Moving away from day to day life, if the pandemic continues to rage on, By Q4 more than 60% of the global supply chains may need to be redeveloped. A rise in protectionism and nationalism is highly likely at this point as people start to onshore. The global economy will enter a deep recession that potentially triggers several political crises as populations grow weary of the outbreak and their governments (either real or perceived) inaction to respond to the crisis.
If we’re still in the current situation by the end of the year, the security situation in many regions worldwide is likely to destabilise and become highly insecure.
Scenario Four: Into 2021 (and beyond…)
This is the longest term scenario where we look forward a year or more to explore what life might look like.
Given the projections for a vaccine, this is likely to occur around this time but there’s a lot of trials still to happen. If this happens, normal life will slowly resume. Of course the logistics of vaccinating billions of people globally is no easy task.
Worst Case: If we haven’t developed a vaccine by the end of the year or seen a decrease in cases, we’re in the current state of affairs for a while to come. This would have disastrous effects globally in every form (politicly, economically, socially). Having said this, given that amount of time, it’s likely if we’ve been socially distant for that amount of time that entire populations may now be immune and subsequently, we could see easing of restrictions.
Regardless of which scenario plays out, the virus may ultimately become like a regular influenza where it’s always apparent. The key to the timeline isn’t the virus but it about how we respond to it and how our healthcare systems stack up. If we can develop to handle COVID-19 like we do an annual influenza, we’re likely to be able to return to normal society much faster.
Many of our clients globally are already engaging with us as they determine how to monitor the situation whilst continuing their operations and keep their teams and operations safe.
We’ve setup a hub on our website to help our clients track the situation as well as access the latest in analysis as well as advice from the World Health Organisation — find us at www.complexglobal.co/covid-19
We’re helping our clients through monitoring and analysis of the situation via inCountry as well as our local, regional & global analysts and experts as well as our crisis response and emergency management provisions — ensuring our clients are assisted in their time of need.
If you have concerns about your current operations and the risks to your team or your business or if you feel you need a more developed understanding in the current situation and what might help you be better prepared, our team is able to assist. We have an expansive team in most regions with access to the latest information and analysis as well as scenario planning and support. To find out how we can support you, our team can be reached at email@example.com