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WHN Boardroom Briefing – Dec 23

Global pandemic environmental, social and governance (ESG) business costs risk level: HIGH

As we head into the fifth year of an ongoing environmental health emergency, there is a highly-mutated variant (JN1.1) which is rising fast and contributing to viral disease outbreaks that are creating a ”triple threat” in most countries. China, Singapore, Japan , Malaysia, India, France, Germany, Italy, USA, Australia, UK are all reporting increased infections, hospitalisations (especially amongst children) and warning of healthcare systems collapse. 

Western public health, media and governments remain largely silent and in denial of growing trends of excess deaths and reduced life expectancy. Politicians have set up covid inquiries in the past (pre Omicron) and are negatively changing disability methodology and policies. Most decision-makers are still failing to learn and act on the lessons from the first wave of the pandemic of short-termism decision making, delayed responses, and modeling a public health response based on an influenza pandemic. (A new study in The Lancet by Ziyad Al-Aly found that whilst flu can hit the lungs hard and can lead to “long flu”, it is purely a respiratory disease. Covid is a multi-systemic disease that hits every other body organ harder at both acute and post-acute stages).

Damaged immune systems and reduced antibodies from little/ no vaccine coverage, means that the “known vulnerable” is now every member of the public, young or old. A wave of increased airborne and asymptomatic infections can lead to high sickness and absence costs over the coming weeks and months. With more workers falling out of the labor market due to untreated Long Covid, inflation rates and  economic costs are likely to increase. 

Global solution feasibility level : HIGH

Businesses and ESG leaders have a moral, fiscal, and increasingly legal responsibility to protect their workforces from the growing risk of short-long term sickness and disability, both at home at work, out in the community or during visiting un-masked healthcare facilities (where acquired covid and other diseases are rampant). Not following the “do no harm” principles makes hospitals unsafe environments for the clinically vulnerable – including those who might be having surgeries or cancer treatment.)

In 2024, CEOs, boards and ESG leaders will need to build on the momentum of Global Health day at COP28 and integrate global health and infection-associated chronic disease across their sustainability and risk focused work. 

Externally, a cross-industry voice is also needed to represent business interests and ensure incoming governments in 2024/5 have sufficient pressure and accountability to stop the uncontrolled mass airborne disease, disability, death, misreporting, and data suppression. 

In-brief: the emerging situation 

  • A new study reports that 3.5M (1 in 9) Canadians have long covid and confirms that each re-infection increases the chances of new health problems and disability. After the 3rd infection 38% had Long Covid.
  • Legal cases are beginning to be brought against states and employers and setting a precedent: cruise ship company Carnival has been ordered to pay medical expenses of passengers who caught covid whilst onboard in Australia; whilst in Peru, Covid has been named as an occupational disease for all workers.
  • Scientists are warning we have now reached SARSCOV4* and that most infrastructure, surveillance and trust needed to support public security has been dismantled by the majority of governments   
  • Prof Karl Lauterbach in Germany and Dr Valipour in Austria are demonstrating brave leadership by warning their citizens of the increased threat to national public safety.

*Analysis suggests that the “Omricron variant family” deserves its own SARSCOV3 label 

Next steps:

More: treatment updates since the last briefing (NOV 23)

More: prevention updates since briefings (Oct 23 and Nov 23)

Last reviewed on December 24, 2023

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