A method in the madness of uncertain times

AS lockdown restrictions eased in Germany towards the end of April 2020, some churches re-opened, but singing was banned. To some, that may have seemed strange; maybe even a tad bit extreme. After all, why should singing a hymn be any different from saying a prayer? But perhaps, it is not so absurd.

Actuarial Society
of Zimbabwe (ASZ)

A 2019 study published in Nature’s Scientific Report suggested that aerosol emission and super emission during human speech increases with voice loudness. While a debate on this may ensue, this incidence highlights how research information could be used by decision makers to formulate policies to combat Covid-19.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 a global pandemic in March 2020. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, we have been inundated with floods of information, both factual and false. Responses across nations have varied, and myriads of opinions are being formed. Information seems to change faster than conclusions can be reached.

One thing is clear: how people use and filter the information they receive to decide whether they are safe or not determines the next steps they take. Which begs the question, how are you deciding whether you are safe or not?

Critical thinking is therefore needful in these uncertain times we find ourselves in. It is important to not only accumulate information but also know how to use the information to form a judgement or make a decision; and ultimately discover a method in the madness and make sense of uncertain times.
It is against this background that the Actuarial Society of Zimbabwe (ASZ) has set up a Covid-19 taskforce to collaborate with and assist the government and all relevant stakeholders to better understand the likely progression of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe and its potential impact on the economy using Zimbabwe specific data and research.

Actuaries have unique modelling skills that can help to quantify the impact of pandemics such as Covid-19 on the financial services sector and economy in general.

The taskforce will also be working with other professionals, including health professionals, epidemiologists and economists to better model the impact of Covid-19 and make recommendations to policy makers.

Zimbabwe’s epidemic is still at an early stage with 203 confirmed cases and four deaths as at June 1, 2020. While the national lockdown initiated by the government has helped the nation buy time to formulate a response, there are still many unknown factors about the virus as new evidence is constantly emerging.
If the pandemic lasts longer, it will have far reaching consequences on the Zimbabwean economy hence the need for modelling to assist policy makers.

Our economy is unique to developed nations with a large informal sector, hence the need for a customised response to the pandemic.
A 2018 paper titled Shadow Economies Around the World: What Did We Learn Over the Last 20 Years by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), concluded Zimbabwe has the second largest informal economy in the world. The informal economy contributed over 60% to the overall GDP. There will be trade-off between re opening the economy and reducing the spread of the pandemic and policy makers have to strike a delicate balance.

The ASZ Covid-19 model for Zimbabwe is still in development, and consultation are underway before it can be released to the public. The model, driven by actuaries, is expected to provide reasonable projections to various stakeholders to assist their planning and to inform intervention strategies.
Morbidity and mortality projections for the insurance, pension and health care industry will also be a key output from the model. The first draft report is expected to be released mid-June 2020.

l This article was contributed by the ASZ Covid Taskforce. Please send through your comments and suggestions to the ASZ Covid Taskforce Committee on secretary@zimactuarialsociety.org.zw