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Chexology's COVID-19 insights

Before we dive in, we want to make it clear that we are not COVID-19 experts and are simply trying to compile the most important information for our clients, prospects, partners, and industry peers. Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing content which we think best describes how our network can work together through this to stay ahead of the curve.

In our posts, we will be citing sources and cases specific to our network of hospitality, entertainment, museum, bar & nightclub, convention center, and event space players. McKinsey’s real-time COVID-19: Implications for business insights is a good place to start, which we recommend as a must-read for all business leaders. We will follow their five horizons above to help our largest markets navigate the crisis through a successful business relaunch. This read will focus on the Return horizon.

Please see our Chexology COVID-19 Response to get a better understanding of the actions we saw necessary to resolve the first two horizons.


McKinsey defines the Return horizon as a time to create detailed plans to return business to scale quickly as the COVID-19 situation evolves and ripple effects become clearer.

Our interpretation of this stage is twofold:

  1. Stay up to date on how swing factors play out in your country

  2. Learn from the economic resurgence “pioneers” for a sense of timing

The insights below are tailored for businesses operating in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia.

Epidemiological swing factors for COVID-19

The ultimate impact the epidemic will have on businesses is still unpredictable, but the spread or control of the virus over the coming months will be influenced by these five swing factors:

  1. Growth of new transmission complexes and evidence of seasonality

  2. Impact of physical-distancing measures

  3. Effectiveness of health-system surge

  4. Readiness of the health system to navigate recurrence

  5. Emergence of herd immunity

Observe “Pioneers” for a sense of timing

China & South Korea

We began by looking into swing factor responses by countries that were the first to report COVID-19 cases. The pioneers we decided to profile in this category were China and South Korea because of their:

  1. Mass testing and hotspot lockdown strategies

  2. Ability to keep our industries open throughout the crisis

  3. Their continuous reopening and monitoring in impact areas post-closure

Since China has the longest history with COVID-19, we decided to evaluate external data being captured from sources we trust. Drinks sector analysts at Bernstein surveyed a sample of 240 restaurants across big cities in China and found 90% were open — up from 63% on March 16. ”In mainland China, we are beginning to see a very slow return of on-trade consumption, as restaurants and bars have started to gradually reopen,” said Diageo in their April 9, 2020, Asia Pacific Trading Update.

Even large museums in China and South Korea have cautiously tested reopenings, observed impacts, and responded accordingly. Mandates for entry included submitting personal health codes, limiting max capacity, as well as having to wear masks for the duration of the visit. Behind South Korea’s success so far has been the most expansive and well-organized testing program in the world, combined with extensive efforts to isolate infected people and trace and quarantine their contacts. We plan to continue to track their progress as they are large markets furthest along in the containment efforts.

Denmark & Austria

The next pioneers we profiled were Denmark and Austria because of their:

  1. Fast nationwide lockdowns within days of their first confirmed COVID-19 deaths

  2. Similarity in individual freedoms compared to our largest client footholds in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia

  3. Complete industry shutdowns followed by nationwide staged plans for reopening

In late March, Denmark authorities acknowledged that the strategy of mitigation had partially worked, but had been less successful than the mass testing in China and South Korea. Both Denmark and Austria did, however, do an excellent job of nationwide lockdowns. In Denmark, all people working in non-essential functions in the public sector were ordered to stay home for two weeks, one day after the first confirmed death. In Austria, a nationwide curfew went into force four days after the first confirmed death.

Austria and Denmark both announced plans to reopen their societies after coronavirus lockdowns, hoping they may have already weathered the worst of the first wave of the pandemic. They plan to lift restrictions in stages. In Austria, small shops are slated to reopen on April 14, with larger stores to follow on May 1. Restaurants, hotels, and schools may be able to reopen in mid-May, though that decision will be assessed at the end of April. Strict rules about masks, social distancing and the number of people allowed into a shop at any one time will remain in place, but public events may resume in July. In Denmark, the plan is for nursery and primary schools to reopen on April 15, while companies will resume business gradually.


We thought it was worth noting that Sweden has kept strong to the herd immunity strategy and we, therefore, classify them as a pioneer. We plan to monitor their progress but won’t dive in further as our network’s mass majority are not in countries that have kept going with this strategy.

Our Markets

The United States & United Kingdom

The pioneers had fast and relatively successful responses that hail in comparison to our largest markets. The United Kingdom at first went with a herd immunity strategy before switching to a lockdown strategy, which fell into place 20 days after their first confirmed death. The United States left lockdowns up to individual States and did not have 95% of the country locked down until 40 days after their first confirmed death.

The “economy first” mindsets of these countries resulted in slow responses. Keeping a similar mindset may also lead to aggressive reopenings, despite steep COVID-19 curves. Whether a shift in mindset or not, we believe both the United States and the United Kingdom will follow suit to the pioneers, with at least a 2 week lag behind countries like Denmark and Austria.

Canada & Australia

Australia and Canada, on the other hand, have smaller death rate curves compared to the US and UK. Australia can be more closely matched with South Korea, whereas Canada is more closely matched with Denmark.

Australia’s response to the pandemic has largely centered on shutting its borders, limiting public gatherings and conducting large-scale testing and contact tracing. Traveling overseas is banned, foreigners aren’t allowed to enter the country, and Australians who return from other countries are kept in mandatory quarantine at specially designated hotels for two weeks. Canada has similar benefits to Australia in that it has far less foreign arrivals compared to the US and UK, and acted faster on testing and lockdown measures compared to its Western counterparts. As far as an economic resurgence, Canada and Australia’s federal governments have not yet released dates to ease lockdowns, with Canada’s prime minister going as far as saying that "normality as it was before will not come back full-on until we get a vaccine for this" and that residents would "have to remain vigilant for at least a year" during his daily news conference. Although conservative, we hope they will follow with the success strategies of the countries pioneering plans for reopening.

We will continue to monitor reports such as these and share our insights through our email newsletter and social outlets @Chexology.

Further Information

For more COVID-19 industry updates, we recommend the articles below:

Stay tuned for our next blog on the fourth horizon businesses will need to tackle: Reimagination!


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