Corona approach – which factor can become decisive?

Author: Manu Steens

In this blog I write my personal opinion and not that of any organization.

Recently, the VRT (Flemish Radio and Television) stated that the fifth wave has started, with an expected 125,000 infections per day by mid-January.

That is very appealing of course, such numbers. But people want to know what the risk is and what the risk factors are. Classically speaking, one can say that:

Risk = probability x impact

In the case of this pandemic, if we dig deeper into these two factors, we can say in simplified terms that:

–         Probability = exposure x susceptibility x behavior

–         Impact = sensitivity x behavior

In the case of probability, the exposure is a function of the environment (directly proportional to the number of infected people in the environment of the person) in which an individual is located and the susceptibility is an internal factor of the human body: how receptive the body is to the exposure. The behavior here is a factor that implies caution on the part of the individual. This without any degree of pejorative intent: it is regardless of whether the behavior is reckless, such as people hanging too close to each other at the pub, or whether the job is a contact profession that entails this behavior, such as people taking care for patients with Covid19 in the ICU.

At the impact level, the sensitivity is an internal factor of the person’s body, such as someone who naturally has a strong immune system or, unfortunately, just doesn’t have a strong one. The behavior here is best illustrated by people who do or do not have themselves vaccinated. By having themselves vaccinated, if necessary several times, it has been shown that people who get corona suffer a significantly lower impact: they may still get sick, but it is less bad, and therefore there is a good chance that they will not end up in the ICU.

What does that mean, if we put this analysis back into the original formula of risk?

That behavior has an influence of at least squared. Why at least? Because situations are possible where the behavior can have a serious influence on exposure, for example by reducing the number of contacts where possible. But more than that: you can also protect others by adopting good behavior, such as doing a self-test before organizing a party, for example.

So the risk is in higher powers (than the square) dependent on behavior. So far for mathematics from the secondary high school.

That means that not only people should be “good citizens”, the government should direct that behavior as a major factor that can influence this fifth wave (actually any wave).

This applies to citizens as individuals, but also to organizations that depend on their employees. Having an adapted BCP and pandemic plan that is coherent in a flexible way with what the politicians and the legislator prescribe is therefore of enormous importance in the pandemic.

So there is more to it than just infectiologists, virologists and biostatisticians: just as much importance must be attached to what psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists can say about how to deal with this pandemic.

So an identified lesson from this mathematics is

  • More so to work on behavior in any pandemic, endemic or epidemic. The low numbers of flu in 2021 show that it works. So good behavior must be maintained.
  • Without neglecting the medical reality, of course. But as support to healthcare.

And if possible, without fear mongering. One has to work through the trust of the citizens. That which they have with their General Practitioner, their specialist, their caregivers in their own family, their teachers, the caregivers of their relatives, the social workers, community workers…

Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields. Since 2012, he has been working at the Crisis Centre of the Flemish Government (CCVO), where he has progressed in BCM, risk management, and crisis management. Since August 2021, he has been a knowledge worker for the CCVO. As of January 2024, he works at the Department of Chancellery and Foreign Affairs of the Flemish Government. Here, he combines BCM, risk management, and crisis management to create a tailored form of resilience management to meet the needs of the Flemish Government.

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