In Amman, we’re in our 7th week of curfews, homeschooling, and weekend lockdowns, and things are starting to ease up so you can drive, the bigger stores are opening again, and in some people’s eyes, we can get back to normal.
Unfortunately, as I’ve said previously, I don’t think we’re going back to how things were (‘normal’), and our ‘new normal’ requires some adjustments. Sadly, in some places, we’re treating the lifting of restrictions as an ‘all-clear’ which is only going to make things much worse.
The lockdowns were never meant to be permanent, but they were designed to 1) stop the spread, 2) buy time to understand what we’re dealing with, 3) plan, and prepare for what’s next.
Some places, like New Zealand, seem to have done that pretty well but other places haven’t.
However, assuming that you had some form of lockdown and gained some of the benefits from the three areas above, you can reduce restrictions because you can take measures to address some of the risk. But the operative word is some, and this is where it’s essential to understand what makes up a risk.
If we use the construct I prefer, risk = threat * vulnerability * impact, this helps illustrate things more clearly.
So the risk is ONLY reduced if we apply those measures that reduce our vulnerability or exposure. The other factors haven’t changed or if they have, not in a meaningful way.
Thinking that this is an all-clear is absolutely the wrong message to take away. It’s a very calculated, managed risk but only if we follow the measures that reduce vulnerability.
I regularly test this construct when I’m cooking. I get something out of the oven and leave it to cool but then grab it barehanded far too early and get burned. (I do this all the time, which I why I write a risk management blog and not one on cooking.) Sometimes, I remember to grab a cloth or oven glove and protect myself. But it’s just as hot (so the threat is the same), and it would still give me a bad burn (so the impact would be the same). But I’ve reduced the vulnerability. Remove the cloth and I’m back to running to the freezer for ice.
If we keep in mind that we can lift restrictions because we’re reducing our vulnerability, then we will be Ok. But if we think that we can lift restrictions and not maintain some precautions, we’re just fooling ourselves and things will go badly.
I hope that we can use our understanding of risk to help people appreciate this trade-off. I believe that getting this balance right is going to be one of the hardest parts of our way out of COVID-19.