Coming to terms with the new virus



There was an awkward moment at the end of my appointment with my NHS consultantĀ  yesterday morning. As we rose to part both instinctively stuck out our hands and then with a forced laugh withdrew and fist-pumped.

We had spent most of the meeting talking about measures the NHS would like to see in place which were – to use the consultant’s phrase – two weeks ahead of the Government. In the development of planning for the spread of coronavirus in the UK, two weeks is a long time. Yesterday we heard

  • Boris Johnson warned that more than 6 million Britons could be off sick during the peak of the coronavirus.
  • The Prime Minister also said that the armed forces were ‘ready to back-fill as and when’ during a pandemic and that the police would prioritise serious crime.
  • Bank of England Governor Mark Carney told MPs that the economic shock of coronavirus would ‘ultimately be temporary’ and would not be as bad as the 2008 financial crisis.
  • The US Federal Reserve cut its benchmark interest rate by 0.5 per cent to ward off a slowdown caused by coronavirus.
  • The American equity markets responded by falling 3%
  • Labour demanded that all workers who are forced to self-isolate as a result of the outbreak be entitled to sick pay.

But my consultant urged me

  • not to work in a shared workspace
  • not to run today’s Pentech seminar
  • not to travel in a train to Scotland for the PLSA event

and was shocked that the pensions industry was meeting in conference at all.

We are now having to make personal choices which affect others.

I eat in a communal kitchen where food lies unprotected, I hear the sneezes and coughs of my co-workers as they go about their business and I am beginning to feel frightened , as a 59 should.

The consultant told me had earlier seen an elderly patient who told him she was excited to be going to the opera. He had forbidden her, telling her that at 75 , the consequences of her trip could be fatal. Fatal not just for her but for her husband.

The queen wore gloves as she dished out gongs.

Washing our hands thoroughly and not touching our faces are key to remaining personally safe and keeping other safe. We are in this together.

All this seemed improbable to me till yesterday, my meeting with a senior consultant changed that.

What should we do?

If my event were next week, I might well cancel it. WeWork might themselves have forced me to. The PLSA event is going ahead but I doubt it would when the Government restrictions catch up with NHS guidelines.

Our calendars are full of meetings, conferences and social events which may or may not happen.

While most of the 6 million of us who contract this virus will find it no more than a sharp flu-like cold, the mortality predictions for older people, especially those with chronic or acute conditions are severe. The 1% mortality prediction is only an average

Screenshot 2020-03-04 at 05.39.55

Of course you can see this chart as comforting or distressing depending on your age or whether you are a life or pensions actuary.

But this could well be the chart that dominates our personal and professional lives over the next year and it’s time for us to be brave and talk about what this means.

And if you are already suffering a condition, you should be aware of the increased risk to you

Screenshot 2020-03-04 at 06.07.09

This is clearly no more a Chinese problem

Screenshot 2020-03-04 at 06.06.18


If I was a trustee of an occupational pension scheme, I’d be asking for a mortality review today.


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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