Mission COVID-19: Nine Principles of War to handle Corona Pandemic!

“ATTACK is the best form of DEFENCE” is what every soldier like me was taught in the Army! It is so relevant in our mission against Covid-19…

As of 07th May 2020 (originally written on Mar 19, 2020) at 10 AM – novel Corona Virus (COVID-19/SARS-COV-2) the hidden enemy (except for scientists who are aggressively researching and studying Corona Virus) has stuck 3,753,219 of our fellow human beings (confirmed cases).

For every confirmed case – which is notified by WHO and individual country, kindly note with all seriousness that there are “hundreds and thousands of cases which maybe asymptomatic, not tested and not accessed healthcare facility till now”.

While the media, news channels do NOT like to talk about the positive aspect of the pandemic – it is indeed heartening to know that there are 1,245,544 cases who have recovered from the infection!

Unfortunately, there are 263,843 deaths reported so far!

There’s nothing new in the above updates – we all have been bombarded with heavy information overload from whatsapp groups, news channels, social media! While we all know about the action points being taken and health advisory issued by governments all over the world (social distancing, isolation, curbs and restrictions on travel, closures of school, colleges, work from home etc) – my endeavor through this post is to take a mission oriented approach to #FightCorona pandemic by volunteers.

Why Mission COVID-19?

I have tried to adopt the best practices from the 9 principles of war against a common, tiny but lethal enemy – COVID-19 with some examples and best practices seen in the last few days

  1. OBJECTIVE – Direct every military operation towards a clearly defined, decisive and “attainable objective”

“To eliminate (not contain) COVID-19 in 90 days from earth” maybe a well defined, decisive objective – but is it attainable? Most governments are grappling to acknowledge & accept the situation and focus on containing the spread.

While the enemy is common to all the nations – the response may not be united (social distancing [Singapore] vs creating herd immunity [UK] vs late response to either of the decision [Italy]) …the results in the coming days/weeks will speak for itself. One of the best examples in response to COVID-19 pandemic came from the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Singapore – see details here.

2. OFFENSIVE – Seize, retain & exploit the initiative.

Offensive action involves disruption & is usually the most effective way to achieve clearly defined objective or result. Most of us must have read about the proactive offer made by Dr Devi Shetty & Sudha Murthy to help the state government tackle the crisis.

3. MASS – concentrate the effects of combat power at the decisive place and time.

Social distancing, personal hygiene such as frequent hand wash recommendations made by WHO and local authorities – though may sound like very simple measures but are the most effective and proven methods to break the chain of transmission in pandemics.

The effect of social distancing (or lack of it) was nicely captured by Tomas Pueyo – reproduced here below

4. ECONOMY OF FORCE – allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts

While we just observed with the previous point – how mass combat power is allocated to primary focus area (break the chain of transmission) – economy of force does just the opposite, wherein you need to be mindful of allocating resources judiciously to tasks which are not primary.

An excellent example here is from Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong – Dr Vincent Cheng from the Dept of Microbiology and his team initiated the clinical audit, infection control measures & evaluated the preparedness of COVID-19 for 43 Hospitals in Hong Kong which handled about 1275 suspected cases of COVID-19 + treated 42 confirmed cases. Out of 413 healthcare staff who treated the confirmed cases, 11 had unprotected exposure to SARS-COV-2 and had to be quarantined for 14 days. None of the quarantined staff members contracted the virus.

While, in contrast – Italy had about 8% ie 1700 healthcare workers infected with the virusand unfortunately some precious front-line healthcare staff providing care lost their lives! There were 02 critical & important learnings here – i) To immediately increase the COVID-19 testing facilities with anticipated increase in the rise of suspected cases & ii) Creation of large dedicated healthcare facilities just to take care of infected cases of COVID-19

In this hour of crisis – it is important to plan, allocate the right healthcare staff to the right facility. Hope all the Governments & Policy makers take adequate care & precautions to safe guard the front line healthcare staff who are in the middle of the war zone against COVID-19

5. MANOEUVRE – placing the enemy in a disadvantageous position to take initiatives, calculated risk to be at advantageous position

Maintaining status-quo or being stagnant in war zone, mission or business makes you highly irrelevant and at-risk to the enemy’s action. Early studies indicate that COVID-19 is a smart enemy making it difficult to contain.

SARS-COV-2 is a 30,000 base pair genome, with approximately averaging 1-2 mutations per month. Although its too early – research studies indicate the possibility of two different strain of COVID-19 (the one which started in China and the one which spread fast with more deaths in Europe).


a) Remdesivir is an experimental broad-spectrum anti-viral currently under going clinical trials

b) Chloroquine – a drug used to treat Malaria for decades has been found to be effective in fighting SARS-COV-2 in experimental studies

c) Lopinavir & Ritonavir are two drugs used to treat HIV & has been found to reduce the viral overload of COVID-19 in few cases

d) APN01 & Favilavir are few more drugs under early studies which has been shown encouraging results for COVID-19


As on 13th Mar 2020 there are 41 candidate vaccines in Phase IIb/III clinical trials and accelerated efforts are underway to tackle novel Corona virus – details here

6. UNITY OF COMMAND – for every objective there should be unity of effort under one responsible commander.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Chiefis the Commander leading the global response to COVID-19. He along the WHO team has done a commendable job from late Dec/early Jan in proactively publishing the daily situation reports, giving advisories to all Governments and recommendations across the globe.

7. SECURITY – never permit the enemy to acquire an unexpected advantage.

In today’s digitally connected world – security comes from information about the enemy which is backed by scientific evidence. I would like to call out few amazing initiatives in keeping the rest of the world informed by the minute – WHO’s situation reportsJohns Hopkins Dashboard by Centre for Systems Science & EngineeringTomas Pueyo’s blog on Medium – Corona Virus: Why You Must Act Now? which has received more than 40 million views and 28 translations…while there are hundreds of blogs, tweets, news features over social media – however, the above 3 stand out and may have lead to some of the world’s leading policy making decisions taken by global leaders – such as travel/visa restrictions, social distancing measures, closures of school, colleges, work from home etc etc.

All of us who will be safe and sound protected from the COVID-19 owe the above 3 amazing initiatives a heartfelt thanks & gratitude!

8. SURPRISE – Strike the enemy at a time, place and manner when it is unprepared.

Surprise is reciprocal to security and a great force multiplier of the action taken against enemy! It will be interesting to see which of the two responses – ie the “Social Distancing + Lock Down” practiced by most countries vs the UK model of “let the virus infect about 60% of the population to generate the Herd Immunity” will be a winner!

9. SIMPLICITY – Having clear, simple plans which are concise and easy to understand.

Simple things in life are the most difficult to execute! A perfect example of “Simplicity” in this fight against Corona Virus is the simple task of Hand Wash – which is a basic hygiene practice but probably the most effective measure to tackle COVID-19 pandemic.

Bain’s Macro trends analysis SITREP (Situational Threat Report Index) indicates that as of 17th Mar 2020 we are at level 6 (out of 10) where the markets & public in multiple major nations are reacting strongly and first-level contingency procedures should be activated.

What are some of the key effects of the pandemic?

1) 20% GDP decline in the first 02 months of 2020 in China – similar effect maybe seen in other countries

2) Stock markets across the globe have crashed in the last few days

3) Falling oil prices due to the pandemic and price war between Russia & Saudi Arabia

4) Prominent public/business events cancelled & most employers declaring work-from-home options for employees

In such hours of crisis – it is sensible to follow a simple rule: What are things which are beyond your control? Definitely not GDP, Oil Prices, Stock Markets etc etc

…and identify things which are well withing your control? Guess, we can easily volunteer 01 hour in such times of crisis to help people across all walks of life, especially for direct support related to COVID-19 (healthcare services, counselling) or indirect consequences on the economic impact (for the daily wage work force, people who have faced job loss)

I am creating a simple form to seek support from volunteers for “MISSION COVID-19” who are in sync with the thought process of “Service before Self” – please do join and help tide over the COVID-19 crisis!

#COVID-19 #Corona #MissionCOVID-19

Disclaimer: Most of the above insights are based on my personal experience – being part of two public health campaigns as part of my stint with the Indian Army Medical Corps – where I have seen the benefits of Army style mission to tackle Public Health Emergencies (Aid to State Government of Kerala by the Army Medical Corps during Chikungunya outbreak in 2007 & Rehabilitation for Earthquake Victims from ground zero on the LoC in J&K 2005)

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