Coronavirus Campfire Project

The ISRM has hosted three Coronavirus Campfires, on Friday 20th March, Monday 23rd March and Tuesday 24th March.

A total of 42 people attended, from Australia, Chile, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, India, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, UAE, UK, US.



  • Voluntary mass testing is the most important thing.
  • The example of Vo (Italy), where testing of the population created a drop from 90 infected people to zero new cases.
  • As the situation continues and social stress builds up, trust in the government will be severely tested.
  • We need to understand what a resilient society looks like.
  • People who are closest to high-risk areas are often resource-poor, but highly innovative and even entrepreneurial.
  • We need to embrace local volunteerism as a strategic resource.
  • We need to move from pandemic to endemic – normalisation and stabilisation.
  • We haven’t started to realise how serious this could get.
  • We are in unprecedented times, but where is the global response?
  • We have been talking about globalisation for fifty years – but each country is still doing things on a country-by-country basis.
  • Crises always stress systems. They identify weaknesses, but also strengths and opportunities.
  • With the correct leadership in the long run this could be seen as a learning opportunity.




Most people still do not understand the seriousness of the situation, and do not realise how bad it can possibly get.

In the UK, a number of people who had been in other countries mentioned how shocked they were at the lack of adjustment to the needs of the virus.

No social distancing, no awareness of potential danger.

One person said that having come from Spain, everyone is really aware of how dangerous it can become, but in the UK it feels like ‘business as usual’. She has stood in the queue at the supermarket, 2ms from the person in front of her – and two people pushed in to stand in the space.


If this is going to be managed on a long-term basis, it has to be at the community level.

Community volunteerism should be seen as a strategic national asset.

The government should proactively support community ownership of issues rather than a top-down command and control attitude.

There are deep-held social divisions, and once the pressure rises, it is possible that those could create real problems of social unrest.


There doesn’t seem to be any real learning – just copying. There is the pressure ‘to do something’ (close schools, shut borders) because others are doing the same.

It would be good if government published the data that they were using to make decisions, so as to give some sort of structure to the decision making, and also to allow the population to understand why decisions were being taken.

There is the possibility of social unrest, and even civil unrest. This will become a problem once people have been in lockdown for more than a week, and if it is seen that the government is not doing things as required.

There are people who are genuinely going to be suffering – no money, no resources and no support. And that is going to be millions of people. What does a 12-week lock-down look like? Does anybody understand what that means? And is it sustainable?

There is going to be a significant rise in domestic violence once people are forced to spend time together, added to the additional pressures that lack of job / money / food brings.


The focus has been on ‘developed’ countries and modern cities. We see news about London, Madrid, Venice, Paris. What about Lagos, Dhaka, Cairo? These are cities with massive slum / favela developments, and then if Covid-19 took hold there, it would supercede everything that has gone before.

In South Africa, a significant part of the population is already living in poor health, with problems of AIDS, TB, bad diet and living in unhygienic conditions.

We are also presuming that they know about Covid-19 and understand its significance. Many of these people have almost no contact with news, so the likelihood is that their lives are continuing as before – and actually, giving the overcrowded living conditions of the slums / favelas, there is very little they could do to change their lifestyles.


In many countries (Australia, Nigeria, US and Pakistan were all mentioned), there is a significant breakdown in coordination between country and state-level administrations. Many of the states make unilateral decisions as to the actions they should take.

It was mentioned repeatedly that there was a complete lack of global leadership (except for the WHO).

We have been talking about globalisation and integrated international frameworks for fifty years, and yet when this happens, there is absolutely no feeling of coordination between countries, who are operating completely on a country-by-country basis.

This should be seen as a global pandemic which requires global-level responses.

On the other hand, overall, there is the feeling that until now, people basically trust their governments, and that governments have more or less made the right decisions.

Of course, decisions could have been made quicker (particularly in UK with the ‘herd immunisation’ policy), but once the PM was told that could lead to 250,000 deaths, he quickly changed the policy.

Politicians are using military terminology (this is a war) the problem is, with a war you know who the enemy is. It can be used to get national support, but it is likely that could break down quite quickly – both politically and amongst the populace.

There is the need to create the balance between not creating fear and panic, but also being trusted to share honest information.

There seems to be little understanding of what crisis management means.

Every government had a ‘pandemic plan’, but but seems that they did not model anything like this.

The WHO recommendations from the start was ‘Test, test, test’, but Boris decided not to do that, and now he wants everyone else to follow his orders.

Impressed with Boris. Slow to give it the seriousness it deserved, but has moved forward quickly after that. The steps he (and the Chancellor – also good marks) have taken are entirely unprecedented, but they have made those decisions boldly, with confidence and in a timely manner.

The speed of development has been phenomenal. No one was prepared for that.

In the US, the Federal government is too slow (an Australian participant agreed for Australia as well).

There needs to be a National Emergency Minister, who creates networks of critical players and stakeholders, both internally (nationally) and externally (internationally.

Yes, but what about FEMA? That was meant to solve those problems, but that didn’t work.

Countries are already using this for nationalistic purposes, and politicians within countries as well.


If people are not listening to official advice about staying at home, it is going to be necessary to bring soldiers on to the street (various countries, not mentioned in relation to UK).

Military can also be used for things like setting up mass casualty hospitals, logistics and food supply, and C2 /C3 (Command & Control / Coordination) functions.

They should use technology for contact tracing. Countries that have used that have been very effective. In China and India, they have billions of citizens, but in India the contact tracing was very effective.

Needs to be much more integration between government and public sector. A good example of that in action is the supermarkets, but for example, integration of IT by the government is almost zero.

What has happened to the issue of cyber security / cyber attack? That was the number one global problem one month ago – and now it is as though it doesn’t exist. Are we still in danger from malicious attack?

Government doesn’t listen to / integrate experts

There needs to be a much higher level of integration between multiple stakeholders. Where are the frameworks / mechanisms for that?

For all countries, there is just not the infrastructure / resources / manpower to engage with something on this scale.

UK is an island but is absolutely dependent on food supply chains from Europe. We don’t have enough food to feed ourselves.

Private sector being more proactive

UK is about 5-7 days behind Italy, US a couple of weeks behind that. Is there sharing of information, lessons learned, new methodologies introduced?


Why are we not talking to China? They have had the most experience with this, but there seems to be no recognition of the fact that their experience could have value for other countries.

A general belief that Russia was giving out false news in order to create divisions between western countries.

Smaller countries seem to be better at acknowledging the problem. One participant said that Georgia had a really good response on to Covid-19, and other countries could really learn for that.

In India, here is the belief / hope that hot weather could cause the virus to die out. Waiting to see – but also waiting for a spike in infections / deaths. Too many people for the system to handle.

Australia is an island, and in a good position. Australia can probably survive on its own.

Where are the international agencies in this? Where is the EU, G20?

Saudi has taken radical action – first closed the schools, then government offices. It now has a curfew from 6.00 pm - 6.00 am.

Nigeria has started to close down, but there is a massive difference between condition in Abuja (which is a modern, European-style city) and Lagos (which has a whole range of other problems and challenges).


Why haven’t we learned from previous pandemics? AIDS, SARS, Zika, H1N1, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, MERS – the world can’t say that they didn’t know it was coming.

The Cape Town drought was a near miss, that created many lessons in terms of how communities respond.


Countries are going to have to reassess their whole economies. Dubai has closed hotels, shopping malls and airports. It is basically a tourist-based economy, and it is unlikely that there will be a swift return to normalcy even after the Covid-19 situation is over.

There are going to be significant long-term consequences. International travel, global supply chains, procurement, working patterns.

What about the recovery? How are people going to get their jobs back? This is going to devastate communities and countries for years.

After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, 9/11 we were told that there would be a new world order, but everything returned to the same situation. Will that happen here?