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Good contingency planning during COVID-19

Good contingency planning always needs a framework from which to plan and Covid-19 is no different. In this article we’ll share analysis on how the operating environment may change over the next 18 months and what you can do now to respond effectively. Safer Edge has been analysing reports from Imperial College’s Centre for Infectious Disease Analysis, the WHO and the CDC,  alongside advice from our own team of experts to establish that framework. As with all continuity planning there’s no guarantee these scenarios will arise, but as with all continuity planning it always pays to prepare. One graph most people in the UK will have seen is Imperial College’s modelling on how different restrictions will impact the number of fatalities from Covid-19. This modelling was a key element in the decision to apply lockdown in the UK. The modelling is drawn from disease surveillance across a number of countries worldwide. 

Last week, Imperial College released another report modelling potential serious cases and fatalities worldwide. The modelling for this data took into account a number of variables such as the quality of healthcare systems in countries and age distribution ranges.

So what does this and other data tell us about the scenarios we should plan for? We recommend that organisations in the humanitarian and development sector should plan as follows:

  • The most intense period of business continuity response will be the next 18 months: on the basis of current predictions on the development and operationalisation of a suitable vaccine.

So plan for enhanced business continuity measures to Autumn/Winter of 2021.

  • On current modelling we anticipate the near term focus to be on suppression of contagion as successive countries go into  lockdown (at time of writing over 25% of the global population is in lockdown).

This means repatriation/hibernation policies should be updated and operational across all of your field offices; it requires pivoting many services to remote delivery and using novel methods to continue to deliver your operations under severe travel restrictions. Remote working of staff also raises new risks such as IT security and logging actions and accountability.

  • Most modelling then predicts a period of ‘atomised’ response: this is where restrictions are lifted in some countries while others remain.

Here the obvious challenges for INGOs and Foundations will be to maintain a flexible approach while working across different countries under different restrictions. International and co-ordinated travel will be challenging but not impossible with the right tools and processes.

  • Second (and ongoing) waves of contagion are then predicted -for example in the UK modelling suggests a potential further wave of contagion and fatalities around November. This oscillating pattern is likely to continue into 2021.

It’s worth planning now how you will respond to this, consider scenarios such as whether you will suspend and then re-instate home working or whether this will be maintained throughout. Agile planning tools (such as agile and simultaneous programme delivery) will be key.

  • Finally, it’s worth remembering how novel Covid_19 actually is. Despite the amazing efforts of centres for disease studies across the globe, we are still working on a limited data set from a number of fixed environments. We do not know whether Covid_19 will alter in nature, whether it will thrive better in some conditions than others etc. For example: if the age range most impacted by the disease starts to change this will have disproportionate impact on developing countries. And countermeasures are based on predictive modelling rather than proven  case studies, so the nature of restrictions could change.

Keep up to date with analysis, design business continuity tools and processes that can adapt and respond to different versions of existing scenarios if needed, rather than having to start all over again.

In short plan now for the next 18 months, adopt new tools to allow a per country or region, flexible approach to delivering your operations; and test out different scenarios for regular escalation and de-escalation of restrictions. And if you need help or ideas on developing or designing your response, please just ask!


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