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Three Takeaways to Manage Personal Risk to COVID-19

“We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us.” – Albert Einstein

Evolving developments amid COVID-19 have led to unprecedented levels of disruption and ambiguity on global, business, and personal levels.

Research reveals that a significant amount of the world's population will contract the infection. No treatment seems likely soon, and it’s vital to put in place individual risk assessment and management strategies.

How much risk do individuals really face?

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a risk expert from Cambridge University, stated the world is in a game of risk management and it must get a handle on the magnitude of risk we face. A BBC article, Coronavirus: How scared should we be?, says an average person aged 40 has around a one-in-1,000 risk of not making it to their next birthday and an almost identical risk of not surviving a coronavirus infection.

While COVID-19 essentially doubles an individual’s risk of dying, this still represents an average risk. The virus amplifies frailties in the high risk group of every age group so “if your risk of dying was very low in the first place, it still remains very low.”

Every individual must do their bit in the fight against COVID-19 and this is where personal risk management comes in. It can help ensure more granular/precision risk measurement, promote preventive and protective actions, and minimize infection risk.

How can individuals manage their risk?

1. Know your zone

The facts:

  • Overall global case fatality is approximately 6.9%. This varies by location and intensity of transmission, and changes to reflect severity in a particular context, population, and time.

  • COVID-19 cases are present in every state but cumulative incidence varies and depends on population density, demographics, extent of testing/ reporting, and mitigation strategies.

  • States become a ‘hot spot’ when more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people are reported each week.


Don’t wait to be told. If you live or work in an area deemed a hot spot, it would be prudent to practice social distancing and wear a mask.

2. How’s your health?

The facts:

  • Comorbidities of prevalent illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, and cancers can determine the illness course, progression, and outcome.

  • Elderly citizens are more prone to infection due to a reduced ability to fight infection and lower response to medications.

  • Bad lifestyle habits, including smoking and drinking, can impact the body’s reponse.

  • If you have medical complications and comorbidities, bear them in mind when opting to step out or stay in.


Understand and acknowledge your overall health. If you have underlying health conditions, keep them in mind before leaving the house.

3. What does ‘interaction’ really mean?

The facts:

  • COVID-19 is spread through person-to-person transmission through close-range contact, mainly via respiratory droplets.

  • The risk is determined by type and duration of exposure.

  • Indoor settings are highest risk, with most secondary infections reported among household contacts and settings where individuals reside/work in close quarters.

  • The risk due to indirect contact – passing by/talking to someone with infection on the street - is not well established and may be low.

  • Duration matters, especially in a closed environment, because the viral load increases significantly the longer someone coughs, sneezes or talks.


Researchers believe respiratory droplets don’t travel more than six feet. Wear a mask and keep a safe distance when possible.

So, what is the way ahead?

Professor Devi Sridhar, Chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, has an answer. “There will never be no risk. In a world where Covid-19 remains present in the community it's about how we reduce that risk, just as we do with other kinds of daily dangers, like driving and cycling."

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