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Undetected COVID-19 Cases Significantly Outweigh Confirmed Cases

Source: Oliver Wyman

Actual cases of COVID-19 are likely to be 10 times higher than the confirmed number of cases recorded in New York City as of early August. Confirmed cases in NYC imply that about 3% of the city has been infected to date, yet when factoring in undetected cases, in actuality, an estimated 32% of the population has had COVID-19. 

This is a trend seen across the world, beyond NYC. However, the number of undetected cases in NYC outweighs case counts of some entire countries, according to data from the Oliver Wyman COVID-19 Pandemic Navigator. Factors that can increase the number of undetected cases include asymptomatic cases, false negatives, people who are unwilling to get tested, inaccurate information shared by governments, shortage of test kits and long wait times for results. 

The number of undetected cases compromises any sense of control of the virus that businesses and schools have been clinging to in order to make decisions about reopening or returning to offices or schools. Ultimately, this emphasizes a continued need for the public to practice all safety measures, like wearing a mask — even if it appears that case numbers in certain areas are decreasing.

Global Food Prices Rise, Impacting Food Security

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Global food prices rose for the ninth consecutive month in February, reaching their highest level since July 2014. Food prices increased by 26.5%, compared to the same time just last year. Pandemic-related disruptions to the food and agriculture industry — such as restrictions to global trading and economic distress — contributed to the lower supply of certain foods.  

The FAO Food Price Index — which tracks changes in global food prices — found the biggest increase in the price of sugar — which is up 6.4%, “as production declines in key producing countries together with strong import demand from Asia prompted ongoing concerns over tighter global supplies.” Vegetable oil prices saw the second-highest hike in prices with a 6.2% increase, reflecting concerns about low production, inventory and export potential. 

Food insecurity was growing prior to the pandemic, and estimates show that the virus could almost double the number of people experiencing hunger. International partners and governments are working together to monitor food supply chains and provide financial support for those who are unemployed and are unable to buy food.

Low-Income Households Rank Remote Learning Less Effective Than Other Income Groups

Source: World Economic Forum

By mid-April 2020, 94% of students worldwide were affected by COVID-19. In two surveys of more than 100 countries, online learning platforms were scored 58% fairly effective and 36% very effective. But lower-income households share a different experience: This group is more likely to express that remote learning has not been effective during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The pandemic has prompted educators and students to adapt to new learning methods and technology. But low-income households are less likely to have access to technologies that allow for a sufficient adaptation to remote learning. In response, some education companies are creating learning content that can be accessed on SD cards and 2G and 3G networks. One company distributes donated smart devices for free to children with limited or no access to online education. 

Since reopening, some schools have adopted a hybrid approach to learning — a trend that may continue after the pandemic, as investments in some education technology companies reached into the billions in 2020. 

How Can Leaders Maintain Employee Engagement in the Virtual Workforce?

Source: Marsh and McLennan

COVID-19 has shown that 44% of workers are able to work remotely. But companies with remote workforces risk losing employee engagement in terms of “productivity declines, behavioral lapses and lower retention rates,” according to a report by Marsh McLennan Advantage. Interviews conducted with 50 senior executives across industries globally uncover four key imperatives for engaging employees in the new normal. 

The first step is for leaders to listen to employees’ feedback and follow up with clear action plans. The second step is to communicate with employee-focused messages. When leaders understand the diverse workforce, they can speak authentically to employees’ needs and values. The third imperative is using technology that enhances the impacts of virtual communication, while also considering the security risks associated with technology. Finally, impactful employee communication requires the CEO, HR leaders and communication leaders to work together. The report notes that “bold measures designed to recharge employee engagement can deliver an energized, healthy, productive and committed workforce.”

How the Tourism Industry Is Adapting to the COVID Economy

Source: International Monetary Fund (IMF)

International tourism dropped by 70% during the first eight months of 2020. Tourism-dependent countries — especially in the Carribean, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region — will face a longer recovery period. For example, in Aruba, tourism accounts for over 80% of GDP, according to the IMF.

Tourism-dependent countries entered the pandemic with limited ability to pivot to other streams of revenue. The IMF notes that diversifying exports could enhance the connection between tourism and other sectors in these countries. Some are even starting to promote domestic tourism and long-term stays. To help manage the financial stress of COVID-19, some governments have also provided training to reskill employees in the travel sector. 

Before COVID-19, tourism accounted for more than 10% of global GDP and created over 300 million jobs globally. Although COVID vaccines and travel bubbles can help jumpstart the tourism sector, the IMF states that, “diversifying, shifting to more sustainable tourism models and investing in new technologies could help to shape the recovery.”

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