Thinkpiece braces insurers for economic losses

In the latest Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) Thinkpiece "Pandemics - be prepared" Trevor Maynard, emerging risks manager at Lloyd's, highlights the risks posed by pandemics and what the next one could mean for the insurance industry.

He says that a major pandemic will have significant economic consequences and cites the outbreak of SARS in 2002 that caused economic losses of up to $150bn. The last global pandemic was in 1918 and the report notes historically such events occur every 30 to 50 years; it also cautions against use of the 1918 model as the world has changed much since then - better technology and greater population movement - and warns that a re-run of 1918 could lead to a recession with estimated impacts ranging from 1% to 10% of global GDP.

Insurers will be on the front line and must ensure policies are designed to respond to such situations, the report states, emphasising they should consider new technologies and changing methods of working to cope with stresses that an outbreak would put on business.

This closely follows evidence given by Professor Lindsey Davies (National Director of Pandemic Influenza Preparedness) to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee last week during which she focussed on the capacity and preparedness of the NHS. Prof Davies said the Government had established effective plans throughout both the NHS and with the private sector to ensure that they would be able to respond to a pandemic.

David Thomson, director of corporate affairs at the CII, commented: "Flu pandemics have great potential to cause extensive human and economic suffering and their impact is becoming increasingly variable. This CII Thinkpiece highlights how critical it is that the insurance industry, together with those responsible for contingency and business continuity, has thought through the risk management and are now ready to face any challenge with robust scenario planning."