Transitioning from the initial terror phase as new COVID-19 cases plateau in some countries


The good news is that over the last week new cases are plateauing or even reducing in many countries, including Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Australia, and a range of Western European countries.

Of course new cases are still rising alarmingly in other countries, most notably the US, though also in UK, Canada, and France.

The chart below shows the last 10 days of data on new cases from a selection of countries, using two different scales to help make sense of the range of the data, and avoiding logarithmic scales as it is hard to visually interpret for this kind of data. Commentary on the implications below.

Moving beyond terror as we see results from social distancing and lockdowns

Until recently the pace of new coronavirus cases was increasing in every country. While China’s official new cases reduced to almost zero some time ago, the full situation and reliability of the data is not clear.

In the inital phase of exponential growth no-one could know how far the virus would spread, every day opened up new vistas on the potential extent of the pandemic.

As a result, harsh measures including full lockdowns have been put in place around the world. Only in the last days are we able to see that these appear to have curtailing the previous extraordinary growth.

Terror was probably the operative mode during the initial widespread exponential growth. Now we are moving into the next phase, in which we can see it appears to be possible to limit the growth through very active containment.

This is not a time to relax

While this is highly encouraging, this of course does not mean we can relax.

There is no indication that the growth in the US will reduce soon given current trajectories and the disparity in the measures taken across states. UK and France are not showing any clear signs of new cases reducing.

As such, there is no horizon on the resumption of widespread international travel.

Moreover, it is likely that infection rates will rise again as soon as what are clearly long-term unsustainable measures are relaxed.

A multi-phase transition

It is inevitable that transitioning to a ‘post-pandemic’ world will take time, and not be linear. Things will improve, and in many cases deterioriate again, on the journey to longer-term containment of COVID-19.

For now, we can move past the terror of having no idea how bad the pandemic would be, to an extremely cautious optimism that we may be approaching a possible peak in response to the measures taken. However, relaxing guard too quickly could easily mean we subsequently go to an even worse situation.

For businesses who are looking to the future, they now need to rebalance their strategic thinking to start focus on their necessary reinvention for a different world as well as survival today.