We first blogged about Covid-19 a year ago. That blog post recalled the lack of reliable information upon which to make decisions during the ‘flu pandemic of 2009; and predicted that, once again, this pandemic would be characterised by deep uncertainty. I never suspected when I wrote it that, one year on, we would still understand so little; such that our only viable response to the recent sharp rise in case numbers in the UK is the blunt instrument of another lockdown.
Whilst I cautioned in January 2020 that we would need to be patient and wait for reliable data on how the pandemic was likely to progress; I had assumed that, by this stage, we would have a very detailed understanding. We have, of course, learnt much over the last 12 months about reproduction rates, incubation periods, and rates of hospitalisation and death. Yet, even now, much is still unclear; including important issues for managing risk within our own organisations, such as the extent to which the disease is spreading through contaminated surfaces and objects (as opposed to directly from person to person).
Whilst Covid-19 has been an extreme example, the events of the last year have been a salutary reminder of just how illusive certainty is in any crisis situation. If we can all take that learning with us when we next have to deal with a crisis, all the awfulness of the pandemic will at least have done some lasting good.