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Webcast Replay: Navigating Pandemic Recovery Risks


Recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will require a concerted effort by the government and private entities, according to participants in the latest installment of Marsh’s continuing COVID-19 webcast series, now available for replay.

The pace of recovery will depend on different factors, predominantly on the management of the current health threat. “Until we get the virus under control, shutdowns will continue,” stressed Lawrence Wu, president of NERA Economic Consulting, adding that the longer shutdowns continue, the higher the risk of businesses not surviving.

In addition, recovery will hinge upon the nature and degree of uncertainty in the marketplace, which is also related to whether the virus is under control. Aside from the fear of a follow-on or second wave of cases and uncertainty related to timing of an effective vaccine, there is also fear of future pandemics.

Businesses Need to Build Resilience

The uptick in cases that many observers expected later this year is happening now in communities across the country. This underlines the need to build long-term resilience both to the continuing effects of the current pandemic as well as future similar events, stressed Daniel Kaniewski, a managing director within the public sector team at Marsh & McLennan Advantage and a former deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

For governments to build resilience, they must focus on three elements:

  • Preparedness: having the right equipment, crisis response plans, and sharing data.
  • Mitigation: communicating and reinforcing actions to fight the virus, including social distancing, regular handwashing, and wearing of face masks.
  • Insurance: a public-private partnership that can lead to the creation of a viable insurance market and create incentives for governments, businesses, and insurers to invest more in pandemic risk management.

The private sector, meanwhile, should focus first on protecting people, including safeguarding their health and limiting disruptions to their lives in case of a second lockdown. Employers should also enable dynamic decision-making based on relevant metrics and protect their operations from future events through well-tested preparedness, response, and recovery plans.

As they continue reopening physical locations, employers need to keep a close eye on what’s happening in the communities where their people live and work, noted Dr. Lorna Friedman, global health leader for Mercer’s Multinational Client Group. They should also be mindful of how outside factors — including transportation, family dynamics, and the upcoming flu season — could affect employees’ comfort in returning to the workplace and add more burdens to already strained health care systems.

While reopening may be relatively straightforward for many employers, they will need to remain vigilant to remain open. In particular, employers must consider in advance what they will do when faced with various challenges, such as an employee testing positive, said Cindy Smail, a senior vice president in Marsh Advisory’s Workforce Strategies Consulting Solutions team. Smail stressed the importance of having a plan but remaining flexible and understanding that when a situation arises, there is likely not going to be much time before needing to take action.

Wu also noted that the pandemic has revealed companies’ strengths and weaknesses allowing them to see their vulnerabilities more clearly. “Companies cannot improve if they don’t know what’s wrong; companies cannot fix things if they don’t know what’s broken,” he said. “If you can determine what you can improve on, then you can succeed.”