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  • Writer's pictureJustin Cuckow

What’s your COVID-19 exit and recovery strategy?

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Exit sign denoting the need for a Covid exit strategy

WHO Executive Director Dr Michael J Ryan got it absolutely right when he said “Perfection is the enemy of the good when it comes to emergency management. Speed trumps perfection … and the greatest error is not to move. If you need to be right before you move, you will never win.”

People are understandably afraid to be wrong, when the stakes are deadly serious. As Governor Cuomo said as New York’s death toll passed 10,000 people “nobody has been here before, nobody has all the answers”. What is for sure is that no country has a fully developed exit and crisis recovery plan for COVID-19. Once new case numbers are reduced there is an urgent need to find an exit strategy from lockdown that limits the damage to health whilst allowing the economy the opportunity to thrive.

As I write this, the government in the UK is reviewing the scientific advice from SAGE and it has recently decided that lockdown will be extended for a further 3 weeks. So how do we plan business recovery and response during this deep and ongoing uncertainty?

In a previous article I talked about the importance of setting strategic objectives early on to help frame and prioritise business continuity response. It is not too late to do this.

Your strategic objectives will form the basis of your recovery planning which should be undertaken against a set of core scenarios, at simplest covering best case, mid case, worst case. The act of scenario planning helps to develop strategy in line with strategic objectives and to identify where there are gaps in knowledge and resources. It is entirely normal to evolve strategy as the evidence base grows.

Here are some considerations around possible exit scenarios, and we may see a combination of these being deployed:

  1. Lockdown remains in place until we have a vaccine – but huge economic damage (unlikely)

  2. Ease off gradually – per the Denmark approach of children under age of 11 going back with definitions of key workers and essential services being flexed (most likely)

  3. Adjust and adapt in line with case increases – but hard to inject economic certainty and have a coherent approach when pockets might flare up anywhere requiring strict measures (possible)

  4. Anti-body testing – at sufficient scale that those with proven immunity can return to work, with some form of evidence burden on employees. But this still leave workers with underlying health conditions unable to return and the speed of scale up takes too long (possible)

  5. Contact tracing and anti-gen testing – case by case, but this requires huge scaling of capacity and may take time. However it is the foundation of any public health disease containment strategy (very likely)

Having thought about strategy and scenarios, we also need to remember that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”... so the key questions for leaders now are:

  1. What sort of organisation do we want to be after this?

  2. What sort of organisation do we need to become?

  3. Are we sufficiently risk sensitive, incident ready, agile and resilient?

Every crisis brings opportunity.



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