When the first signs of a financial crisis in Greece (and the Eurozone) were becoming known to the public at large (the financial news was already talking about these problems since months) the IMF said they needed 45 billion Euro to calm the market with one big operation.
This weekend 145 billion Euro was promised to Greece of which 2 to 3 billion from Belgium (where will we have to cut in our budget to compensate that ?). This is about 100 billion Euro more because the political leaders (sic.) of Europe couldn't decide how much to lent with who at what interest and under which conditions.
The main question for the Euro is now if the political leaders have learnt their lesson and will start acting now with respect to Portugal, Spain and Ireland before those countries will be tried out also. Spain can become the main breaker or survivor for the Eurozone. The economy of the country is so bad, there is no political agreement about the needed cuts (contrary to Portugal) and its reputation has already been severly damaged by the rating agencies that it will become the Waterloo of the Eurozone.
This may even take place under the Belgian presidency of the European Community. (for Americans imagine that each of the states may guide the 49 others in making together decisons about policy, international relations and finance....). But Belgium will just have one of the most difficult elections and may not even have a government or may be in very difficult internal institutional negotiations which are deadlocked since at least 3 years.
Yes there is a European president but he only presides some conferences between the different heads of state. He presides but doesn't decide. He can only try to convince them to agree to at least something.
This institutional micmac has cost us 100 billion Euro during this crisis.
The Greek drama is that because of the timid answers of the European Community and the nationalistic refusal of Greece to go directly to the IMF the crisis has been developing very fast. In a few days Greece has gone from a country that still found investors for its bonds on the private market to a country that is know said to be on the border of defaulting on its debts (which are junk bonds anyway - which will pose new questions about the solvability of some banks).
The drame of the Greek crisis is that Greece can't leave the Eurozone because the judicial and financial complications would be enormous and it isn't even sure that it would be a solution. So they have to stay in the Eurozone for better and for worse, but that ain't the way the other partners are seeing it (for the worse).
The drama for the Eurozone is that if Greece would default on its obligations and wouldn't be able or willing to pay some of these debts back, the domino-effect on other countries that are already in the limelight of speculators (and others that are on the borderline like Ireland and France) would increase enormously. The markets are like a rollercoaster, it goes up slowly but it goes down very fast.
So the Euro is losing some of its political power (as its position is more political than financial) but that is an double edged sword. A strong Euro is good when the price of oil is going up (as it is) but bad for exports. It is not clear how a lower Euro will play out with rising oil prices and an economic slow recovery. As inflation is going up in the Eurozone, the debate between the proponents of an anti-inflationary monetarian policy and those that want to accept some inflation (up to 4% according to the IMF) will flare up again - or won't it (because everything is decided in small circles without much democratic oversight and debate). You can't have it both ways.
If the Eurozone decides to follow the anti-inflation doctrine with a strong internatonal Euro in a very weak economic recovery (in the Eurozone) than the consequence will be that the so-called socialsecurity states will become under enormous pressure to lower the wages, cut social welfare and healthcare with the social unrest that will follow.
Even if one says that one needs the strong Euro to give the industry a defense against the rising oil price, than one has to take into account that at the same time these enterprises have trouble exporting outside of Europe because of the strong Euro. Instead of just using this argument one should proof that it is an effective one and study it in the whole economic context, not just in a dogmatic way.
The small Belgian secret is that even if the country is now going through a political crisis, there is a real financial crisis looming if the parties can't find an agreement about how to reform the financing of the federal state (responsable for the social security, army and stuff like that) and the regions (more or less responsable for the rest) after the election. Now the regions get so much money from the federal state that in a few years time the federal state won't have enough money to finance the social security (pensions and stuff like that). If that ain't a dirty little secret, I don't know.
It also shows the irresponsability of our leaders nowadays. Even when walls come stumbling down in the Eurozone.
The frenchspeaking community of Belgium adheres to a communitybased federalism in which it is your language that makes you part of their community wherever you live (even in Flanders). The frenchspeaking community has its own budget, administration and government. It is responsable for schools and culture. The flemish have integrated their community-administration into their regional administration.
The flemishspeaking community of Belgium of which its nationalistic politicians are still traumatized by the fact that Flanders was mostly frenchspeaking untill a few decennia ago is much more focused on a regional federalism in which each geographical region has its frontiers and doesn't have any authority in the other regions. It is old politics based on old history and old fears.
During the last discussions about the insitutional reforms the flemish leaders said to the french negotiators, "well if you give us more power and budget we will respect more the frenchspeaking minority in Flanders" (they constitute even a majority in many cities just outside of Brussels) . But the contrary happened the last years. Never before have so many flemish politicians and decisionmakers done so much to make to make life so difficult for its french speaking minority (even accepting that there is such a minority is a taboo in Flanders as it would mean that 'democratically' you are obliged to take them into account and respect them).
The effect is that the french negotiators don't trust the promises from the flemish negotiators and want some real guarantees that the cultural rights of the french speaking minority in Flanders (schools, libraries, cultural life) will be respected in the future whatever happens.
Even if Belgium would break up and Flanders would become independent, Flanders will have to accept the fact that it has a large frenchspeaking community living on its soil and that they have some basic cultural and democratic rights - like any other community. You could even say that if Flanders wants to become independent it will only be accepted and respected if it does that. If it continues with its stupid policies of 'Vervlaamsing' - the way some Baltic states are doing against their Russian minority - it will only lose the last international respect it has. No governmental image and PR policy can change that.
It is even more stupid as the internet and ADSL tv have opened the frontiers even more for any community. The main effect being that you have a bilangual french speaking community in Flanders that will play with languages as if it are only ways of communication and learning while the pure flemish youth will always be more limited in their ability to learn languages because they haven't been confronted to bilangualism from an early age.
You are as many times man as you languages speak can (some old greek saying)
Just a reminder. The flemish nationalists say that there are courses in flemish for the newcomers and others but these are far too limited to accomodate everyone who is supposed to know flemish to be able to fill in the administration, help the kids at school and so on....
Will Belgium split up ? risk : nihil
For the rest it is all changing by the hour.
Pro publica is an online investigative news organization that influences some initiatives over here, but that are by no way already uncovering things that would take the time and effort that their journalists are investing in their stories. It is for this reason that they have won the Pulitzer prize for their article about the high number of deaths in a hospital and the possibility that the doctors played for god and killed those of which they thought that they couldn't evacuate them in the present situation.
It is a very good article and it shows that there are a high number of sources and investigations that were used.
* the batteries of the Hospital went out after about 48 hours but it seems throughout the article that nobody had made a reverse clock and did anything to make it clear to the outside world that they had only 48 hours of power (and a hospital without power - how do you get to the PC or server if all the medical information is electronic ? )
When the batteries went down, it was as if it was totally unexpected, while it should have been the most planned aspect of the whole operation. When the airco also stopped, it was as if nothing could be done.
* there was nothing in the emergency procedures to describe how one should select the priorities of evacuation and there seems also not to be a good description of who takes the lead in whatever situation in the absence of whoever which led to meetings and decisions where not everybody was involved.
This doesn't mean that one should agree with the position of some doctors who ask that they can't be prosecuted under any circumstance for the actions and decisions they are taking during an emergency or catastrophe.
* It is also strange to read how much time it took for the official organisations and the commercial headquarters of a private section of the hospital to organise the evacuation of a hospital. The public disorder and the militarisation of the law and order operation were also compounding the chaos.
Maybe there is a lot to be learnt from this disaster because everything was in a big book of more than 200 pages and people were trained to follow the book but the book didn't foresee this. Maybe disaster training has less to follow books and be more focused on problemsolving skills.
easy to say, although
First there is no central office which is responsable from A to Z for everything concerning the transfer of prisoners. The risk analysis of each prisoner who needs to be transferred is done by the different departments with different objectives.
Second the people who have to safeguard the security of those transfers have NO GUNS. You read it right. THe persons who have to guard sometimes very dangerous criminals (with limited risks because they have been behaving well lately) have NO arms. They also don't have the powers of the police, they are only administrative workers. If the risk of evasion is too high or there are other risks the police is asked to do the transfer.
Third the service responsable for the transfer of the prisonsers has not enough manpower, especially during holidays, after standard working hours or when they have too many transfers at the same time.
Fourth the Justice Palace in Brussels where those court sessions are being held is in fact a protected monument. It is a really impressive building (built to impress the population living around it) but it is not a building that could be used for court sessions with dangerous criminals. Even placing cameras can take months because each change has to agreed by a kind of architectural protection commission. Maybe the court sessions for dangerous criminals should be held in the prisons themselves. We are planning to build new ones anyhow.
Fifth as several politicians are all responsable for part of the problem, the blame game has begun.
There is no European Union or Community and the national hymn 'all humans become brothers" is just show when it really matters.
As long as there is no directly elected European president with elected ministers (European model) or his own administration (US model) and his own budget and general powers, there will be no European policy. You can say there is some European oversight and checks and balances but you hardly can speak about an European policy.
So when the Germans offered Billions to keep their factories open, the cadidates for GM didn't hesitate one minute to leak to the press that they would close Opel Antwerpen and keep the German factories open. And even 'objective' standards and reports won't change that because those can be written exactly the way that they were intended to be. Most consultants are just hired guns with a pen.
And this goes for cyberpolicy also. Because if one can't work together during an economic crisis, the same people won't be able to work together when the lights and the data go out and it is every society for itself (to keep up what is still up). Yeas, critical datasecurity is all about electricity in the first place.... (another domain on which Belgium is faltering in its security).
You shouldn't count on Europe but develop strategies without Europe and if Europe goes your way, fine. If the European level doesn't work (we are with 26 decision makers - imagine 26 US governors sitting around the table having to agree on everything....). you should be ready.
Maybe we should be able to sell Ford Antwerp to someone else, instead of just closing it down.
And so the independent minded flandriens see that they are only nains on the international level. Something hidden between France and Holland. Like Asterix and Obelix. Only without the magical drink.
Schouppe a secretary for state of Transport for the Belgian federal government thought he was a smart guy when he ordered his local bank to sell his stock in KBC in may just a few days before it became publicly known that they had to be saved for another time (and their stocks crashed of course).
But he forgot that the Belgian banks are obliged by law to inform the authorities when they think that transactions may be fraudulent. Banks can lose their license if they don't (and it is found out). No bank ever lost it license but I am not sure that means that every banks informs the justice department directly when it thinks it sees a fraudulent transaction.
So he was realy surprised they acutally did so.
As a politician he should be proud they do the things they should do by law and didn't take the risk of being investigated for 'covering up'.
Everybody expected war in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and everybody was focusing on these wars and how to contain them.
Meanwhile the situation in Korea is going out of hand at an incredible fast scale. Never have there been so many warpreparing acts and provocations in so few hours. The preparation for the Iraqi war took months and could be halted any minute during all this time - in theory.
Have the impression that something is going incredible wrong there and that there should be more attention for this situation. An American General declared that the US could go to war and North Korea has suspended the truce. Yesterday they were testing rockets again. If that ain't the most dangerous situation on earth for the moment, than I don't know what is.
For firms with links to China this can become very difficult times as nobody is sure what could happen when the first incidents at the North Korean Border (the most militarized of the world) will happen. I suppose DRP teams are getting their plans out of the box and are doing the necessary paperwork and taking the necessary decisions so everything is in place if.....
The advantage of this is that even if nothing happens on the warfront, you are prepared when the swineflu eventually hits some regions of China big time. (You don't need a great number of infections to have huge economic effects as Mexico has shown).
For the financial risk assessment manager. China is the economic production pool of the world. If it becomes involved in military actions or will have sanctions itself imposed on them because it helps North Korea to survive economic sanctions, the economic effects could be huge.
The more I look at it, the more I think, What a mess. I hope somebody in North Korea gets back his cool before the train of war has left the station and there is nothing to stop it.
Frank De Winne may in that case view the first local nuclear war on earth from the safe space station :) But that is cynical me, just joking.
Some details and numbers make this question necessary
The possible defaults for the KBC are around 22 billion Euro at least for the moment which is
- bigger than the budget of the Flemish regional government and so the bank has to ask for help from the Belgian federal government and so its frenchspeaking counterparts. But is has no political credibility or sympathy on the other side of the regional divided Belgium because it has built its political and ideological image on the success of the 'dynamic' flanders region against the french-speaking static old fashioned regions. The representatives from these regions are quite sarcastic now and without compassion.
- much bigger than value of the bank on the the stockmarket and even of the sum of the available capital of the major investors from Flanders. The more the value of their stock diminishes, the greater the difference.
They have said they will have to disinvest and get their capital back to their base. They have now investments and loans in Poland and other countries in Eastern Europe and Ireland. They will have to sell some of these quite fast and so at a huge loss.
They have promised not to restructure untill the end of this year so there are no economies to be expected from slashing the workforce.
- it is not sure that all risk scenario's for loans are also calculated for the worst case scenario. If the situation gets worse than they planned in Ireland or Eastern Europe, these losses will become greater and loans that were safe will become 'toxic'
After this incident in which they needed an independent outsider to recalculate the costs of some loans and because it seemed that the bank didn't inform its institutional 'investers' (the governments) in february that they will have big problems with some loans because they were not insured anymore, the governments will now have a big problem believing the assessments of the bank itself about the impact on their loans after an eventually further deteriorating situation in Ireland or Eastern Europe.
So is KBC the Titanic just going forward strraight on the iceberg while the bankers are having a party untill everything breaks down and in which the bankers are rescued first or is KBC the Iceberg in which you are never sure what will be under the sea ? Or are they both ?
We who believed that the financial sector was an example of controls and procedures and independent appraisals and audits are proven wrong again. They need much more of that quickly. To restore confidence and trust. First between themselves.
- One of the main Belgian (flemish) banks KBC is going through a real storm since a few days and some details are really interesting
* a total loss of credibility : they have always said that they didn't need the money, that they were safe and that the only problems they would have would only be because they had invested too much in Eastern Europe (buying local banks at prices going up to 6 times the real turn-over - probably based on boomscenario's)
They have always said to the politicians that they were safe now and that nothing could happen and they were believed on their words. They are big bankers and if you can't believe big bankers - who you suppose are being advised by the brightest minds - who can you believe ? They are in any case responsable for an enormous amount of investments and you suppose that they act accordingly.
The politicians have now some questions about their discourse that they don't need more outside control and rules.
One detail may help them with that. After the official discourse that they were safe, someone in the bank had probably some doubts and questions and just wanted to be sure. So a totally external risk auditor was called in to review all the risk assessments on their investments and portfolio. He noticed the problems that set since two weeks the negotiations between the banks and the government into motion.
It will be very difficult to regain the confidence of other banks and financial institutions or supervisors because if the internal risk assessment is so flawed that an external risk assessment finds such big problems, than what can you trust from all the things that they are saying ? The biggest problem with Fortis was that other banks and financial institutions were not willing to lend any more money to this bank untill the take-over by BNP was being presented as a solution. The same can happen to KBC if they can't assure the other financial partners that all their financial information and risk assessment is sound and correct and double-checked.
* a bank is not a scouts group. The CEO of the bank who went on tv and was in the international press to assure that everything was fine and that the bank was one of the best in Belgium and that all the rest were rumors and speculation and that we have to trust him when he was saying this is taken to hospital shortly before the publication of these reports. So now other secondary persons have to take his role. But one thing on tv just made me bang my head against the wall (virtually). They said that the top people and directors of the bank and in higher structure were all friends and working in a friendly confident atmosphere. But a bank or an organisation like that is not a scouts group. Off course you have to work together, but that doesn't mean that decisions, facts and discussions have to take into account anything else than facts and nothing else than the facts. You aren't a better friend because you accept stupid decisions or propositions. You are heading a bank because you are responsable for the money of thousands of people and enterprises, not to form a social club for friends.
This means that internal auditing and controls are lacking and are working in the wrong atmosphere. Friends don't send auditors through the propositions of each other.....
At one side you have the researchers and policy makers who are afraid because they don't have all the facts and there are still too many unknowns to be sure what decision to make. The result is that you continue to prepare for the worst - even if the possibility that it will come to that aren't that great in comparaison with the situation (and thinking) at the start of the crisis.
For computer security guys (and girls) this is a situation we already have seen many times. We cry for the big alert because we know that in theory this or that new vulnerability or exploit/virus can disrupt the internet or the online economy in a big way. As the infection and clean up operations continue the picture becomes much more difficult to communicate.
But as the big virus doesn't realise the cynical say that there is no need for all those millions to spend and that the panick is worse than the virus itself. So they start communicating about their disbelief and their disagreement. For the press this is a new story and so the public is thrown between the prudent policymakers and the cynical dissidents without having all the facts on the basis of which one can make an opinion.
The basic fact is that we don't know yet and that it will take months to have all the facts to make a definite opinion. And even if this virus isn't the most dangerous one it can mutate into one much more dangerous in the coming months or years. This is the basic fact that one has to consider. The flu will never be the same again. Everytime there will be the fear that this virus or a mutant will be found again and that it can be something much more dangerous and stronger.
Having a Flu policy and procedure at your administration or enterprise is not a luxury. It has become essential - except if you wanne be hit sometime somewhere in the future big time while not being prepared for it.
So look at this film and forget what you know today and think what would have happened if it was a car bomb to explode from the moment it touches something or even worse - from a distance by a bystander with a mobile so that the best moment could be chosen
risk training : what is going wrong here right after the impact ? About everything I suppose. So they were lucky
1. first they were lucky it wasn't a car bomb
2. the whole royal family was on the same bus in the same city at the same time which means that if it was a car bomb the WHOLE royal family would have been killed.
3. Some professionals say that you can't foresee this and that it didn't happen before but Holland did have some violent attacks on important people about which everybody at the time said that it wasn't possible in Holland and that this was a first (Filmmaker Van Gogh and a populist politician). How many attacks should they have on important people to realise that violence against important people is more possible than before.
4. The national royal holiday is a festivity but if you look at this picture than you will see that the protection is minimal and that they are very very lucky that this was just a lunatic suicide attack by a loner who didn't wanted to be sure that he would go into history as the guy who killed or wounded the whole Dutch royal family. He could pass two police agents who didn't shoot, he could pass a some other checkpoint without being hindered (no police men) and than he could just ride with high speed into the crowd (no policemen before the last checkpoint) to get as near as possible to the bus with the royal family.
5. They were having too much fun and too less security. Securitypeople should be more paranoid and other people should have more confidence in their advice.
last thing, this is the advantage of following such important 'transports' with a helicopter in the air. He should have seen that there was a car riding where it shouldn't at high speed and could have sent out instructions to stop the car at all costs or put more special police forces around the bus (or divert the bus) and get the royal family in safety (was there a protective car riding after the bus in case ?)
So we are there before a possible big crisis. So we can go through all our preparations again and check them and see if they are enough or not. Meanwhile some questions already start to pop up
* Holland has places the order for the vaccin, 2 doses for every citizen. Belgium didn't yet. We are going to try it with those that we have in stock and hope that they will work and will continue to work with all the mutants and variants.
* There is no European coordination and even worse the different countries are doing different things seperately. This promises when it really could get though.
* In the Unversity Hospital of Ghent (100.000 persons) there are max 40 places for sick people that can be put in quarantaine. When asked what to do when there were more he said that at that time it would be a real crisis..... even worse with the lack of plans about what to do with the rest of the sick people that come to hospital (as the official communication now is that you should go to hospital).
* There are general guidelines and plans but..... in the general plan the Influenza office says that there would be a Business Continuity Plan for enterprises and administrators that they should follow as guideline. (p.34 I think). I have been searching and phoning but nobody has been capable of telling me where those official guidelines are. Meanwhile I have used the ones from the US and the WHO.
These guidelines for Business Continuity should have been ready by december 2006. Maybe I am stupid or maybe they are placed elsewhere but I think they should now be published on a very visible place for everybody responsable for an enterprise or administration so they also can begin setting up the necessary instructions and infrastructure. And even if this can't be used for this virus because it just fizzles out (for the moment, it can come back later this year or next year) it will be useful to have and know when something else happens (and there are hundreds of things that can happen every day that but your business of administration in a situation in which it will need some business continuity planning)
but you touch less your mouth if you have touched something (anything in an infected area) that is infected with the virus
it reminds you constantly that you are in a dangerous area and that infection is just 'out there' anywhere (because it is NOT normal seeing thousands or people with masks walking around)
it makes them shut up :) everybody will buy an Ipod or something to read as speaking to people can be 'risky'.
and to finish this is the biggest test yet of all the plans and preparations that have been going on since SARS in 2004. This is 5 years ago so it is a good moment to evaluate. The economy came to a near standstill in 2004 because of the fear of the theoretical possibility that it could spread. This theoretical possibility is now even much greater but there is some practical evidence that it won't necessary play out like that. As doubtful as I was in the beginning about the crisismanagement and about the willingness to take appropriate preventive measures and about the chaotic contradictory communication here, things are going more or less as they should have been from the beginning.
But hey, I am a security paranoid :) luckily that is my job...
Everything should be put into context
twitter is an online chat tool on which anything can be published and is not to be used for facts but for firsthand rumors, stories that will develop and buzz. Using it as a kind of news service is silly. Using it as an indicator or first alert (to be verified) source is interesting but you have to keep your distance.
the internet is also hosting masses of more credible and official news sources which are also mentioned and used by numerous of other official and news sources worldwide. If you want correct news that is official than you go there.
the official communication that is being distributed is only trustworthy if it is correct and put into context and without losing too much time (knowing that otherwise incorrect information could be spreading enormously fast by online twitters and headlines). In fact they have to follow the online rumor and newsstreams to be sure that incorrect information is not spreading too fast and will be corrected. It is important to do this.
the credible news sources have to concentrate on selecting the news from the rumor and checking the information and have to be very careful about the wording of their headlines - especially online. The goal should not be to have the most eyeballs getting headline - like in the newspaper but to be most factual and correct. The paper edition of the news source will have more resources and time to correct and check and adapt the story untill its final version while the online version will be written on the spot and without much doublechecking.If online news sources show themselves to be professional and trustworthy today, they will have kept or rewon a credibility that will have shown their usefulness. Collecting headlines with short texts that aren't verified is not a credible news source.
For the rest context is important
* the only real place where it leads to death is Mexico city but the reason for this has not been found yet although specialists are being sent over
* the number of deaths and sick people is far less than even the SARS crisis. In fact for the moment less than 10 people die every day from the virus in Mexico city (21 million habitants). I think there are lots of other viruses that kill more people over there each day than this one.
* the biggest fear factor is the lack of a cure and that this virus could change again in something even more dangerous. Also the fact that the virus has been spreading for some weeks before being noticed is worrisome.
meanwhile it is a very good example to test your pandemic plans and procedures and correct them afterwards. Like with conficker, the world won't fall down but there will be some difficulties and now we are learning if we are ready to cope with them together.
in their own words
"Belgium has developed an pandemic flu preparedness plan, which describes the different organisations and the role they will have to play confronted with a flu pandemic. A limited version of the Belgian preparedness plan, is published here.
For more information about the Belgian Preparedness plan, check this powerpoint presentation: Belgian Preparedness Plan
For more information about the flu and its possibility to become a flu pandemic, check this presentation: Pandemic Flu
their acts no negative travel advisory to Mexico, just stay away from places where there are many people (hide yourself in your hotel room)
Just one precaution, double check alerts and news and wait for official confirmation before spreading 'rumors' or 'eye catching newstitels'
The official news
Not so official but expert views and news
http://twitter.com/healthmap (spreading slowy)
Infection prevention awareness
send e-cards with health awareness (wash your hands and don't touch people and things in an infected area)
All outbreaks for all health alerts http://healthmap.org/en (some say it is out of date and not indicating all cases)
US (Google) http://www.google.org/flutrends/
Mexico (not longer only the capital) http://uchalas.com/influenza/
some US - Mexico Map http://swine-flu-information.com/outbreak-map
New information tools
And if all goes bad, how to prepare
No Belgian sources ? No, they just think they better say nothing interesting by fear of installing panick while not saying anything useful while you can find it on the internet is the most stupid thing you can do
As I said yesterday, the effect on the stock market and some stocks in particular is beginning to show. Pizza hut and other delivery or homefood or online delivery services maybe in fashion now also. Airlines and holidays seem to get a negative effect.
Our Belgian government/administration meanwhile thinks it ain't worth any special precautionary actions for the moment. Instead they will be running (as hell) behind the facts when it is too late.
This is what Yahoo is writing in its reports - and what we don't hear on Belgian tv or radio - where they try to minimize the risks and so on
"Countries planned quarantines, tightened rules on pork imports and tested airline passengers for fevers as global health officials tried Sunday to come up with uniform ways to battle a deadly strain of swine flu. Nations from New Zealand to France reported new suspected cases and some warned citizens against travel to North America.
World Health Organization Director-Generalheld teleconferences with staff and flu experts around the world but stopped short of recommending specific measures to halt the disease beyond urging governments to step up their surveillance of suspicious outbreaks.
Governments including China, Russia and Taiwan began planning to put anyone with symptoms of the deadly virus under quarantine.
Others were increasing their screening of pigs and pork imports from the Americas or banning them outright despite health officials' reassurances that it was safe to eat thoroughly cooked pork.
Some nations issued travel warnings for Mexico and the United States.
Chan called the outbreak a public health emergency of " potential" because the virus can pass from human to human.
Her agency was considering whether to issue nonbinding recommendations on travel and trade restrictions, and even border closures. It is up to governments to decide whether to follow the advice."
I do not know if you can read behind the lines but if this ain't a very worried official without any power trying to tell the governments to do everything they can to limit the spread of this virus, than I am a blind man.
Does any politician think that one month before our regional elections (but that are very important) people have any sympathy for their inaction. We already had once elections during a dioxine crisis (and the governmental parties lost bigtime). Do they really want another one during another health scare (even if there is much more scare than risk). A scared population can have a much bigger impact than the risk itself. Imagine that they wouldn't travel anymore for example. Imagine them buying all kinds of medicins - thinking there won't maybe enough when this really breaks. You better show a firm steady control from the beginning, leaving nothing on chance than giving the impression that you don't have a clue where to start.
For example. They are not informing Belgian travellers returning from Mexico because there are no direct flights between Belgium and Mexico and they think it is up to the other countries to inform the returning travellers..... By the way how many people could decided in a few weeks time if the situation worsens (if) to come back to their home country ? Or should they be evacuated to nearby centers ? Things you have to think about NOW not in a few weeks time ....
Since the first bird flu attacks states and international private enterprises have been (sometimes) preparing for pandemic preparation plans. If such a new flu (some feared a variant of bird flu but now it seems to be a strange mix of different human and animal flus) would brake out (or in the human body and more importantly between human bodies) without any treatment available for a certain number of days, weeks or months, the number of deaths could be high in our big cities and our ever deplacing population.
The only way to prevent such from happening would be the isolation of infected cities, populations or even countries. All traffic to and within these cities or regions would come to a standstill and all public gatherings in those cities or regions would be at least a risk and at the worst case prohibited. If at the same time important personnel (going from doctors, judges, policemen, ITpeople and civil servants) would become ill or couldn't get to work public services and private enterprises would come to a standstill.
The pandemic preparation that some countries, cities and enterprises have done at a huge cost during the last years is just to prevent that. It means that people and civil services would know how to isolate certain cities or regions and how to keep the essential services working (by IT).
Some said that the chance that this would happen is near zero for the next years and that it was fear mongering and a waste of money (the same who said that the year2000 bug was hype). The security and risk people said that you have to prepare for the worst from the beginning to be able to survive every and any crisis even if it doesn't seem to be as bad. Knowing what to do and being able to do exactly what ought to be done - especially if you have tested it with an exercise - makes all the difference during a crisis. It is not during a crisis that you will develop such a plan or that you will find available consultants to set it up for you.
So when this first big possible outbreak of a new human deadly flu is taking place in Mexico some firms know they are prepared while others don't have a clue and hope it will just blow over.
The first thing you can already do is to stop all business travel to affected regions and to ask people travelling there to take all the necessary precautions and not to show up for work without a proper medical exam.
The second thing you can already do is prepare your infrastructure so that your workers can continue to work on their servers and documents even if there is no transport and some cities are quarantained. Having the necessary (even cold standby contracts) in hand gives you some more rights than the firm looking for external services and backup when the first panick reaches your country.