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DRI’s Future Vision Committee Reports in on the COVID-19 Crisis

April 22, 2020 Leave a comment DRI Admin

During these strange and disturbing times, DRI Future Vision Committee (FVC) Chair Lyndon Bird has been keeping in regular contact with members of his team around the world, all of whom are busy responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Bird says that “although the crisis has hit different countries at different times and with different intensities, we all feel a common bond. The FVC members live or have family in most of the regions of the world and it is important for us all to keep in touch. I have known some of the committee members for many years but others I have only recently worked with. I am relieved to say that all, to my knowledge, are safe.”

First, let’s look at Italy, the country where the outbreak really started in Europe and which, before being overtaken by the U.S., had the most  Covid-19 deaths worldwide. FVC member Richard Knowlton has lived in Italy for many years and writes:

As you will all know, we have had a torrid time over the last 6 weeks of the pandemic in Italy, with horrendous problems in hospitals in the north, the most prosperous part of the country. To date, we have lost an astonishing total of over 100 doctors, mainly due to inadequacies in the supply of PPE and the initial slow reaction of the authorities. Like all governments, as far as I can see, the Italian state has made frequent fumbles and policy missteps. But it has generally kept the population with it in its measures to combat the disease, despite the traditionally adversarial and combative nature of Italian politics. This means that citizens have largely respected the police-enforced lockdown, effectively a system of house-arrest that has already lasted a month.

 Conversely, Japan has been very late to respond to the crisis with some senior people still talking until recently about holding the Olympics in Tokyo this year. Tokyo-based Professor and FVC member Kenji Watanabe comments:

Japan has hardly managed the COVID-19 related situations at all. Now our Prime Minister has declared a state of emergency in our seven prefectures including Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka. One of the main reasons for it is a high possibility of the total collapse of our medical systems. We are now getting into the phases that many other countries have already responded to and we try to leverage your experiences into our upcoming responses.

UK resident and FVC member Patrick Alcantara is a native of the Philippines. He tells us:

My family based in the Philippines are coping the best they can, and considering how chaotic the crisis management there is, I am very grateful that they are safe and well.

I am naturally very concerned about their continuing health and safety.

Alcantara himself has been impacted by one of the indirect consequences of the crisis. Having recently taken a new position in the North of England, he has had to obtain new accommodation in Manchester where he now works. Unfortunately, because of the lockdown restrictions he has been unable to move his furniture and goods from London, and has had to retain his apartment in London which he no longer needs. However, he believes this is a minor inconvenience compared with what many people are suffering.

In Australia, FVC member David Porter who works for the government has been very busy this year with COVID-19, which immediately followed the worst bush fires in the country’s history. So far, cases in Australia and New Zealand have been low relative to the U.S. and Europe, but that is no reason for complacency and strong infection control measures have been imposed.

Porter is looking beyond the current crisis.

We need to learn lessons as we come out of this emergency. I am happy and eager to participate in trying to redefine how we manage such events in the future.

As we talk to our U.S.-based FVC members we see a similar desire to look ahead – perhaps to a more cooperative and supportive approach in the future.

New York based Andrea Bonime-Blanc says:

One of my hopes from these fraught times is that we will all learn about the importance of expert and responsible leadership in all sectors – business, society and government – and do less finger pointing and more constructive work on behalf of our stakeholders. I also hope we take advantage of this global crisis to learn from the dire social needs and ills that are being laid bare and crystallized by this pandemic in both advanced and emerging economies.

California-based Boris Issavi adds:

Charitable and religious organizations have stepped up by offering care packages and opening their spaces to be used by the public, even though their own monetary receivables have drastically decreased. People, in general, are kinder to each-other sensing that we are all being impacted together. In a weird and twisted way, COVID-19 has brought out the best in people.

Finally, a word of caution from Linda Conrad. Although sharing her FVC colleagues hopes for the future, she warns us that other threats have not gone away. Conrad writes from Maryland.

Professionally, from a resiliency perspective, this has been a true test of preparedness. During these unprecedented times, we have seen a surge in cyber crime. Companies everywhere have been focused on managing the financial and operational impacts of COVID-19, and cyber criminals are sweeping in.

It has been a positive thing to see the increased innovation and creative connections that are now occurring.  I also hope that people take this opportunity to re-evaluate how they spend their time and energy, to establish a new normal. I pray that all of you – and your families – are safe and sound!

I am sure we all agree with her sentiments here.

Stay tuned for more from the FVC. Lyndon Bird can be reached at lbird@drii.org.