In crisis, emergency and disaster response and management it is critical to understand the nature, scale and impact of a crisis; as only through an honest appraisal and understanding of these can appropriate decisions made and responses authored.

In crisis, emergency and disaster response and management we talk about scalability (recently, both we and The Institute of Strategic Risk Management have produced articles and papers which touch, amongst other areas, on this) in order to identify how a single major incident could potentially be transformed into a full-blown crisis, especially on a national scale.

So, in connection with the current Coronaviris – COVID-19 global pandemic and UK specific epidemic, we thought that some historical perspective on scale would be informative; particularly with respect to a core message of take such a threat seriously, take precautions and mitigate risk, but also keep calm and carry on.

So, in terms of pure scale, the situation now the continental is that 27 countries have been affected, with Europe 12,000 cases and more than 400 deaths having been reported; with Italy, Germany and France seeing the highest numbers. Britain, in comparison, currently has 321 cases and four deaths reported.

The global Coronaviris – COVID-19 pandemic has been labelled as a peacetime threat that has not been seen recently. Aside from what ‘recently’ is defined as, it wold be wrong to label such a threat as unprecedented. Historically, over both very and relatively recent historic (no more than the last 150 years) periods, previous disease-and influenza-based global pandemics make Coronaviris – COVID-19 pale in comparison.

So, what are the facts with respect to the UK, Europe and historical perspective?

Firstly, as this is written, 24,643 people have been tested in the UK, of which 321 cases have tested positive. In comparison, Italy has 7,345 (comparable to both South Korea (7,478) and Iran (7,161) confirmed positive cases recorded, with over 350 deaths.

How does the Coronaviris – COVID-19 pandemic / epidemic compare historically? Over the last 150 years Smallpox and Measles killed some 500 million people globally, Spanish flue is estimated to have killed between 50 and 100 million people and Aids killed some 30 million people. Worldwide, malaria continues to kill approximately a million people a year.

That said, other global influenza pandemics from the era of modern virology, such as 1957 Asian flu (H2N2) global pandemic killed between one and two million people; and the 1968 Hong Kong (H3N2) pandemic is estimated to have killed between one and four million worldwide. The SARS CoV pandemic between 2002 and 2004 killed approximately 774 people. The 2009 H1N1 virus or Swine Flu pandemic dwarfed the 1918 Spanish flue, with it being estimated that between 11 and 21% of the then global population (approximately 6.8 billion), so approximately 700–1400 million people globally contracted the illness. However, with between 150,000–575,000 fatalities, it had a much lower fatality rate of 0.01-0.08%.

All of this would suggest that the current Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is more of these scales that that of Spanish Flu.

If we take a different perspective and look at the average reproductive rate (r0) of such influenza based pandemics, The World health Organization (WHO) suggests a r0 of between 1.4 and 2.5 for Coronavirus COVID-19, with WHO and Imperial College London MRC Centre putting highest mortality rates at 3.5%, which would more closely match SARS. However, there are significant country variations, ranging from 0.7 to over six percent; as well as other

When we compare Coronvirus COVID-19 to the most common influenza we all commonly face, flu, the latter has an a r0 of 1.3 is estimated to kill between 290,000 and 650,000 people worldwide each year, and so with an r0 of between 1.4 and 2.5 and potential mortality rates of from 0.7 to over six percent, Coronvirus COVID-19 is more serious than the flu. That’s said, current figures suggest that over 80% of people who succumb to Coronavirus COVID-19 will only have a mild case and recover fully; and fatality rates suggested to be equally low.

Further, in in a country like The United Kingdom, and similar Western countries, with an excellent NHS and sophisticated political, social and medical infrastructure in place, such higher fatality rates are, God willing, unlikely.

So, in conclusion, the scale of the global Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak does present a genuine and serious threat, which will probably become an epidemic in the UK and will potentially significantly impact us nationally, organisationally and as individuals over the short term. It is only right that we should take sensible precautions to protect ourselves and others; mitigate the potential threat and risks; and contain, isolate and delay the transmission of the virus. That said, it is also vital that we keep a sense of perspective, don’t panic, keep calm and carry on.

For further and the latest information, the following online resources are suggested.