Risk experts reveal their Covid-19 concerns

Published Jun 5, 2020


CAPE TOWN- The Covid-19 crisis has exposed fundamental shortcomings in pandemic preparedness according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) report. While countries attempt to recover from the effects of the virus, some of the more lasting economic, environmental, societal and technological challenges are becoming visible.

The Covid-19 Risks Perception Survey conducted by the WEF asked 350 senior risk professionals to take a view on 31 risks across three dimensions: most likely for the world, most concerning for the world and most worrisome for companies.

Conducted from 1 to 13 April, the group consisted of risk specialists in business, government, civil society and academia, and the professional networks of Marsh & McLennan Companies and Zurich Insurance Group.


Covid-19 Risks Outlook aims to provide a preliminary picture of which risks may be amplified by the crisis.

Economic shifts

According to the WEF report the global economic fallout due to Covid-19 dominates companies’ risks perceptions. Two-thirds of those surveyed identified a prolonged global recession which could last about 18 months to be a top concern for business.

The virus outbreak has forced countries to implement varying containment measures and as a result has diminished economic activity and required fiscal and monetary actions worth trillions of dollars to protect jobs and markets.

Governments will seek to recuperate public finances. Higher taxes in the future may present one option.

Sustainability setbacks

While unprecedented lockdown measures have had positive short-term effects on the environment due to less air pollution from industrial, commuting and travel activity, the survey found that it is likely investment in climate action will reduce drastically.

18% of respondents identified this risk as one of the most likely risk outcomes and 16% considered it to be one of the most concerning.

Years of progress could be lost through underinvestment in infrastructure adaptation, withdrawals from previous commitments and weaker climate activism.

Societal anxieties

The Covid-19 global pandemic and the subsequential economic crisis could lead to higher unemployment rates, deeper inequality, and continued stress on people’s well-being.

The survey respondents identified two top societal concerns, high levels of structural unemployment and the restricted movement of people and goods. There are also risks to personal freedom, well-being, and the educational and wealth prospects of the young generation.

Another infectious disease outbreak is of greatest concern among societal risks for the world, according to 40% of respondents, with 30% identifying this as a likely outcome.

Technology dependence

Many countries around the world have implemented varying degrees of national lockdowns which have had economically destructive effects, but it has also fuelled a tech-enabled contact-free economy. Telemedicine, online retail, social distancing delivery, and logistics, promises to boost employment in certain areas and sectors.

Technology has also been central to the way people, companies and governments have managed the virus outbreak. However, a greater dependence on technology has increased cybersecurity risks.

According to 38% of the risk experts surveyed, new working patterns leading to cyberattacks and data fraud are the most likely technological fallout risk for the world.

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