Preparation for pandemics, other outbreaks

Pandemics usually occur unexpectedly, claiming lives, disrupting events and wreaking other accidentals in the society. Due of its abrupt nature, people and economies are often not adequately prepared. I mean, no one in reality, expects that the world would be overcome by outbreaks that would threaten the very existence of humanity.

However, we live in a world where things are uncertain; nothing guaranteed. There is, therefore, need to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances, as they could mark significant changes in people’s lives. Individuals, households, governments and countries must be appropriately fortified to withstand epidemics and global outbreaks such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Ebola and more currently the coronavirus disease.

With the rapid spread of COVID-19, the chances of getting out of it soon looks bleak and the uncertainty of getting past it prevails. However, we should take important cues from previous pandemics and brace up in case of another occurrence.

Individuals and households
For households, survival is key and so there must be plan to stock up the pantry. Having a full pantry will never go wrong. Even in the absence of a pandemic, storing things up for the rainy day is always a good idea. Why? In situations of scarcity, there will always be supply within the house.

In the case of an outbreak, there will be restrictions on movement, as laws will be enforced to curtail the spread of the disease. One may be stuck at home for a period of time, and having a full pantry will be a saving grace. Always do your grocery shopping ahead of time, as this will relieve you of worry about restriction of movement or total lockdown. Dried food items such as grains, pasta, and legumes that could be stored for long and offer variable options for day-to-day meals should be prioritised. Other food essentials that should be considered include canned foods, cereals, fruits, vegetables, proteins, among others. Pre-outbreak storage of household essentials would go a long way in preventing panic-buying.

One important thing to note, with or without a pandemic, is general hygiene of the home. There should be regular cleaning of the house with disinfectants to ensure a clean environment. Also, hand sanitisers, soaps and sterilised wipes should be in constant use within the house. People inside the house should be encouraged to wash their hands regularly, especially before eating, as well as after sneezing, coughing, or touching body parts, and after using the toilet. Washing the hands with soap and running water regularly is very important, especially when a pandemic breaks out. It is the best bet against the spread of diseases.

Also, if there is anyone within the home that requires special medication, it is advisable to stock up the drugs for about three to six months, so you won’t run out of essential medicines. It is also important to stock up pain relievers and other over-the-counter routine drugs.

If you hear of any pandemic outbreak, the first thing to do is to stay inside your house to protect yourself and your family members. The easiest way for diseases to spread is through contact; so staying indoors is a sure way of preventing contact with people, especially the infected ones. During this time, enlighten yourself about the type of disease from reliable sources. It is always beneficial to learn more about the pandemic ravaging the land.

Business and economy
Apart from the health sector, one other sector that suffers greatly in the face of pandemic is the economy. The measures taken to prevent or control such diseases usually put economic growth on the reverse.

Businesses need to develop viable continuity plans that would prepare them for unexpected situations such as a large-scale outbreak and possibly limit its effect on staff, shareholders, investors, customers and even the immediate community. To do this, a lot of checks and confirmations have to be carried out on the continuity plans. However, an ordinary business continuity plan cannot be effective in the case of a pandemic; it is necessary to change the course of such planning to focus more on staff members and how they can work remotely in circumstances of sustained crisis.

Businesses should take proactive steps that would mitigate risks and maintain continuity in commercial activities. Companies should have a crisis management team to help them work out an effective continuity plan particularly targeted at reducing the impact of outbreaks on their businesses.

The World Health Organisation developed a six-phase pandemic-tracking model for evaluating threats. It is important for companies to appraise this model in their planning. Harvard business review indicates that the point where businesses are expected to develop risk management plans is in the third phase. According to the review, by stage four, the planning stage would have passed and all that is left is the implementation of the plan. By stage five, the time is ripe for strategic execution.

It is advisable to gauge the potential impact of a pandemic on a business, and continuity plans should be made according to reports.

In preparation for any large-scale outbreak, the government has a lot of loose ends to tie. It is important that the government ensures the country’s stockpile is filled up with essential supplies. The national stockpile should be sufficiently filled up from time to time without giving room for any depletion. In the case of depletion, such item should be re-stocked as soon as possible.

Increasing federal investment in medical research is also very essential. Any pandemic is first a health issue. More commitment has to be made towards the promotion of medical research in terms of funding, provision of amenities and infrastructure. Health workers’ associations should be taken care of to avert actions that may hinder research or other activities. The government should see that shortages in all significant sectors, particularly health, should be taken care of. More health personnel should be admitted to close gaps.

The capability of all essential sectors should be strategically enlisted. Non-profits should be encouraged to seek proactive means through which they can directly improve such situations.

In Dr. David Skorton’s words, “Preparedness is not a fixed one and done state but a continual process, a mindset of constant readiness.” Now is the time to begin to strategically prepare for other crises that may occur. Large-scale outbreaks such as COVID-19 usually do not give time to prepare, hence the need to be foresighted.

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