The isolation blues

To download the full Spring 2020 issue in PDF format, please click here.

As is often the danger with a features publication – especially a quarterly one – events can overtake you, making even the most zeitgeisty or forward-thinking article look a little stale. 

Few could have predicted that the event which overtook this issue of Insider Quarterly was going to be a global pandemic. Certainly not the UK government, whose preparations for the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak appear to be woefully out of step with some of the most successful attempts by administrations to limit the spread of the disease – particularly those in South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. 

What is noticeable in all these cases is that they have already had a taste of dealing with a coronavirus epidemic, namely the Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak of 2003, and have therefore had the opportunity to refine their response to future outbreaks. 

Meanwhile, other wealthy developed countries like the UK and the US appear to have lagged behind in their response times, and have struggled to meet the demands for critical equipment such as ventilators and personal protective equipment for frontline workers. This lack of preparation is puzzling at best in such countries, but this seems to be at heart a political issue.  

This is a worrying time for many people whose livelihoods are severely compromised by the current lockdown, with those in the leisure and hospitality trades particularly badly affected.  

It is heartening to see, therefore, that in the (re)insurance world a good deal of thought has been given to preparing for the extraordinary circumstances that we now find ourselves in and the sector as a whole appears to have swung into action with very little hesitation. 

Lloyd’s gave a public demonstration of what many firms (including our own) will have been doing in the period just before the UK government issued an injunction for the majority of the public to stay at home, enacting a one-day shutdown of the underwriting floor to test the market’s resilience in the face of enforced home working. 

Fast-forward a week and a half and virtually the entire market is working from home – and while it can hardly be called business as usual, it is continuing business. 

However, while the (re)insurance market is to be congratulated for its own response to the global situation, there have already been dark mutterings from politicians and insureds – in addition to a number of court filings – about the extent to which the economic impact of Covid-19 is likely to be covered by insurance. 

In many cases, it seem likely that pandemic cover will have been explicitly excluded or maybe offered as an affirmative cover for additional premium, but with some fairly strict terms and conditions. 

What seems certain, however, is that this unsettling and, for some, tragic event will represent a complex and challenging, but very meaningful opportunity for the (re)insurance sector – with the ILS market set to play a significant part in bringing credible solutions for pandemic cover to market in future. 

Stay safe! 

Gavin Bradshaw, Editor, Insider Quarterly 

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