On the 11th March,2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially designated COVID-19, Coronavirus disease 2019, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus 2, a pandemic.
According to Wikipedia, a pandemic is the rapid spread of disease across large population spanning geographies, continents in short period with fatalities. The disease which emerged from Wuhan, China, in December 2019 has travelled to 209 countries, affected 1,133,758 people worldwide and with 62,784 confirmed deaths as at 5th April,2020.
The world has witnessed over 35 outbreaks since 1580 and early, in 1918, over 50-100 million deaths were recorded worldwide from pandemic influenza outbreak. According to Evanson et al (2018), an outbreak occurs every 15 years. Following the outbreak of 2005, the World Health Organization advised countries to design pandemic preparedness and response plan covering 61 key indicators. The assessment of these plans across Africa countries showed that Africa countries preparation was inadequate. Gaps were seen in areas of ethical consideration, testing capacity, surveillance etc. Africa countries are known to have poor health care system, less likely to respond effectively to pandemic, and are chiefly classified as low income or middle-income countries. Nigeria is categorized as lower middle-income country which has responded responsibly and successfully to Ebola infection of 2014.
Apart from fatalities recorded from the ongoing pandemic, COVID-19, there has been negative socioeconomic impact of varying degree. In the last few weeks, a lot of countries have shut their doors to international travellers, cancelled flights, preventing movement in in order to curb the spread of the virus. Contracts have been suspended. Projects halted. Deals have been cancelled and several events, conferences, games, sporting activities suspended or are on hold. Activities across and in countries have been paralysed. Businesses across the globe are counting losses. Jobs are cut as a response to the lockdown announced by several governments and the reality of the time, we are in. Furthermore, it has been said that the global economy will shrink by $3 trillion and could wipe out 5% of global GDP. Here lie in challenges for many corporate organizations in the world. Nigeria’s companies -large, medium and small – are not insulated from these shocks.
A Test of Preparedness
COVID -19 pandemic is stretching organizations and testing their resilience – the ability to still strive in the light of uncertainties. A blend of business continuity management and pandemic preparedness and response plan will assist organizations at this time to manage their business continuity risk and pandemic risk. It has been suggested that collaborative approach is also needed to scale through this season. Organizations will need to collaborate with appropriate local and international authorities on all fronts and especially, in terms of information gathering, risk communication and other elements needed to defeat the pandemic.
And despite the absence of insurance cover for many organizations that could reduce the overall impact of this pandemic which cut off the capacity to meet needs and fulfil obligations, the organization can activate its business continuity plan fussed with pandemic preparedness and response plan if it has one. Otherwise, it’s never too late to structure one with clear objectives and defined accountabilities to actualize plans.
Therefore, the organization will need to elaborate continuous process of planning, exercising, reviewing of actions to address pandemic risk and including well-crafted plans to mitigate the risk if it crystallizes in line with its strategic objectives. The output of this process are implementable plans, structures. roles etc. Documents are maintained as appropriate to reflect the arrangements established to address the pandemic risk.
- Strategic Objectives
- Strategic Planning
- Excercises & Reviews
Below are key elements of pandemic preparedness and response plan
Key success factors that will ensure an effective pandemic preparedness and response plan are:
- A Pandemic Risk Assessment should be done in alignment with the enterprise risk management framework. There should be consistency in the way the organization quantify and appraise risk
- Current and updated information should be sought and appropriate update should be initiated
- Pandemic risk preparedness and plan should be integrated into other management systems of the organization
- Appropriate communication methods should be adopted and measured over time to ascertain the extent to which objectives is met
- Collaborative approach should be adopted. Teams and relevant stakeholders should be engaged
- Top Management and other management staff should own the process at strategic level and coordinate at functional and operational levels
- Adequate resources should be provided and in addition to relevant training and empowerment
- Awareness and Exercise Plans should be created, executed and measured against objectives set for each
- Prompt review of the pandemic preparedness plan along side associated management systems
- Align strategies elaborated for pandemic preparedness and response with corporate strategies to address continuity of business risk
- Assign accountability for the management of pandemic preparedness and response. Most times, this role resides with same role responsible for business continuity, or human resources or occupational health and safety
- Continually seek opportunities to improve its responsiveness to uncertainties and threats to the business
For further information on business continuity management system based on ISO/IEC 22301:2019 standard and pandemic preparedness and response plan, please contact the author via email@example.com
Certified Trainer, Lead Auditor and Lead Implementer, ASQ Certified Quality Auditor