Ph.D. Oleg Maltsev. About tactics of combating the epidemic

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About tactics of combating the epidemic

The world is in crisis aggravated by fear, danger, and quarantine today; every day reports of victims, suffering and loss. The reason for all this is intuitively apparent to all: roaring coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to media and modern communication technology and networks, coronavirus transformed into a truly massive emergency incident. The phenomenon of “coronavirus” is not an innovation or an unknown phenomenon for humankind. On the contrary, it was conceptualized multilaterally — the filmmaking industry presented different scenarios to the global community in the course of 20 years. Those scenarios include the triggering mechanisms — “viruses,” which secretly change the environment, transmuting it into a dangerous – deadly – uncontrolled segment. There are dozens of movies released on this subject, in particular, a movie like “Contagion” (2011) was and is extremely popular (translated into more than 30 languages).

Accordingly, even based on a prototypological example (described scenario), the virus of this kind and potential sequence of events was known before the outbreak of COVID-19. When that scenario became a reality in China, the Chinese government decided to fight the virus by their own methods: strict quarantine, restrictions, and other socialist methods, typical for the Celestial Empire’s mentality component. Also, one should pay attention to the appearance of a considerable number of reputable world consultants on the topic, for example, Nassim Taleb openly advocates that panic and overreaction is the best way to preserve oneself.

The next stage of necessity to bolster global efforts to address the pandemic was the report of McKinsey & Company, an international consulting company with a specialization in strategic management issues. However, except for the general outline of events and statistics, the McKinsey report does not suggest practical strategic or tactical recommendations for potential changes in the future, nor does it have solutions to fight the pandemic. Accordingly, it is impossible to rely on that report to identify and come up with the specific procedures or approaches to form a tactical problem resolution system. And yet not a single tactical scheme to combat the epidemic has been proposed up to this point; which, of course, generates questions. Even though world powers are mainly focused on the Chinese line of implementing anti-virus measures, Chinese practice and censorship cannot be called a tactical plan. If to narrow down previously introduced set of measures to a logical model — quarantine residents and wait until infected ones recover — this is perhaps a step, but not a solution to fighting the virus. It is a passive tactical idea, but not a plan.

On the other hand, careful consideration of “tactical work in the conditions of a global threat” (epidemics along with anthropogenic accidents and disasters) and the development of a tactical model to hinder it should begin with an accurate knowledge of what is happening. It is an offset position – a direct look at the event, maximally accurate answer to the question “How do things stand in fact?” is a launchpad and the most critical aspect in the development of a valid tactical scheme to neutralize an emergency.

From a practical viewpoint, it should be noted that it is impossible to answer that question based on quantitative indicators. The fact is that quantitative indicators of countries and even different service reports on this or that country are inconsistent and contradictory. To rely solely on numbers that contradict each other is misleading oneself and others.

The primary predicament of the epidemic as a type of emergency is its tendency to scale. To compare, a different type of emergency like an anthropogenic one does not tend to scale. For example, the explosion of a nuclear power plant reactor causes damage and consequences but does not scale. The threat associated with the epidemic always tends to scale; accordingly, we never know beforehand which territories/groups/communities exactly will be affected. The time and speed reach unbelievable ranges in the 21st century, so does the spread of the virus through air transport, sea and land travel. If 100 years ago, the journey from Beijing to Amsterdam was counted in weeks and months, it is a matter of several hours today. Thus, there were cases when a person got infected in China, flew to another country, and ended up having symptoms after a while.  In the given situation, what is crucial is not only the incubation period of a disease but also the qualitative factor such as the speed of interaction between countries responsible for scaling.

Correspondingly, to control scaling, the transport system of an infected region must be confined in the first place. Cutting off transport links with an epidemic-hit country/region neutralizes the spread of the virus to other territories. In such a case, infected ones would get full attention from medical personnel and the number of deaths would be kept to a minimum. The more virus is spread, the less manageable and effective health system becomes.

Another important aspect is the people who form the intellectual potential of the country. It is shortsighted from the government’s viewpoint to weaken its capabilities beforehand against the potential global threat. In fact, the lack of scientists, researchers, and experts in virology and epidemiology, the lack of funding in those areas is perilous, as well as the disastrous policy, which leads to the weakness or even absence of medical institutions specializing in virology. Scenarios of how to act in emergencies, in particular, how to prepare special means, technical equipment and everything that provides sufficient work in conditions of the pandemic is indispensable. Those conditions would secure the possibility to eliminate the consequences of a sudden emergency like an ongoing one.

Many EU countries have freely led themselves to a weakened state without proper training of relevant bodies; at the moment, collapse in science resulted in the suspension of scientific developments in the field of virology and epidemiology. Elimination of these branches of science on the governmental level entails a lack of personnel, methodologies, working procedures, rapid response systems and other things. Accordingly, today’s emergency and the global threat reveals an incapability of dealing with it, confusion and panic. In most part, neither representatives of states nor citizens know how to behave in the conditions of the epidemic.

Pandemic is a global threat and it does not matter how they will emerge from now on, be it a fatal coincidence, lab experiment, marketing tool in the hands of unscrupulous private intelligence services, or in another way. What is important is that this global lever in the form of a pandemic might be used later on. In such a case, the fact of the threat will be invisible and the type of the threat will be “upgraded”. For a reason mentioned above, states must be capable of taking control over potential emergencies. Relevant services must be organized beforehand, provided all necessary equipment, and be ready to carry out specialized activities to eliminate the threat and its consequences.

Equally important is the task of having trained medical personnel trained by scientists who can cope with such tasks, professionals-virologists who can develop a treatment, epidemiologists who regularly face unknown problems (the main characteristic of their activities is the development of clinical treatments). Such experts should develop treatments from zero based on a small model with an unknown X threat (potential epidemic). Upon the detection of a real threat, experts should be able to investigate it and develop a clinical solution quickly. Certainly, these skills are not acquired in a few weeks or even months; usually, it takes years before a competent, qualified, and well-trained specialist is ready.

Any pandemic has a rather critical psychological factor; those who have never faced and dealt with global threats and emergencies before are anxious, which is an expected psychological reaction. Accordingly, unprepared doctors also experience something similar, and with increasing fear and anxiety, they cannot adequately perform their medical duties. Keeping this principle in mind, it is also vital to deal with this in advance and prevent phobias from becoming an obstacle to saving people. Medical staff and senior experts should go through specialized psychological training. Additionally, doctors and workers in this field should receive high financial compensation being reliable specialists in the governmental service.

Secondly, these people should be morally and ideologically savvy; they should know why they are doing their job; they should know that their activities are vital and highly respected. Their philosophy should be about combating “evil” in the form of global threats. Since unknown viruses are hazardous for the lives of people, for doctors as well, both the state and society should be grateful to these people if they are successful in dealing with their jobs.

From the perspective of operating during a pandemic, it is imperative to develop appropriate legislation. Constitutions of each state should have a section that specifies: action plan of the state’s population, the government, the president in the face of global threats. Legislative decree should make it clear that in cases when certain human rights should be restricted, it will be for a short period (no more than 30 days, for instance) and only in the case of critical emergency. If the state did not prevent a critical emergency in the country, it is the state’s responsibility.

Today we have no choice but to acknowledge large-scale incapacity to develop tactics to combat the epidemic, on the one hand, and incapacity to manage actions to eliminate the epidemic, on the other. In a nutshell, it is about two parameters:

  1. a) Relevant tactics are necessary;
  2. b) Leaders who have the skills to implement these tactics in cooperation with other people.

The key role is given to management; the first necessary thing is to improve managers’ skills and teach how to manage people in stressful situations. Expert leaders must undergo appropriate training and classes before there is a threat. It should be noted that theoretical training is not enough; practical exercises should be there too with the involvement of the police, National Guard and so on. A person must clearly understand that he will have to act in the face of an impending threat; otherwise, he will not be ready for it professionally and morally-psychologically. One should take into account the so-called unpredictable psychological factor: the way people behave in extreme situations. Unfortunately, today no school of psychology studies this just like no due attention is paid to the mentality component in making a forecast. While implementing a tactical scheme, it is necessary to take into account the mentality of the territory. If it is about managing large numbers of people, it is more effective to rely on those who are already in charge of them today. From a practical viewpoint, a tactical model is required to develop tactics; it is preceded by an objective understanding of what is happening, which is possible only based on a valid logical model. Further, based on the final view, it is possible to develop a tactical model. Furthermore, to develop a tactical scheme, it is necessary to understand who can lead in this situation.

To sum up, a tactical scheme aimed at combating the epidemic should look as follows:

1) Hinder scaling. This step may define the scenario of the epidemic. However, if the first stage was looked over and the epidemic has gained momentum, it is necessary to go to step 2.

2) Isolate the infected area. Organize headquarters to eliminate the disease and the consequences. Develop clinical intervention methods immediately. Develop measures to ensure the implementation of the headquarters plan. Obviate the epidemic.

3) If the epidemic has reached the scale of the country, form a committee to eliminate the epidemic and the consequences of the epidemic. Break the country down into sectors, in each sector to organize the headquarters of the committee for coordination and control. Give the headquarters authority and funding.

4) Headquarters should engage business leaders of the regions. Provide funding and allow them to take leadership to eliminate the consequences of the epidemic in the areas entrusted to them.

Here is a suggested systematic tactic to combat the epidemic, which considers the needs of the modern democratic society. The presented scheme allows us to isolate the threat at the early stage or deal with the threat and its consequences. It cannot be stressed enough that scientific developments are vital to prevent the expansion of pandemic scenarios.

Ph.D. Maltsev Oleg
Author, researcher, criminologist, psychologist. Founder and director of The Memory Institute, Head of Odessa Regional Branch of the UAS, head of Expeditionary Corps, chairman of Odessa Photographic Scientific Society, Ukraine.