The next 6 to 12 months will be a continued period of travel instability and economic uncertainty. However, lockdown and travel restrictions are already being lifted in some countries, particularly in Europe, as governments balance the risk of infections against the risk of economic recession.
Countries in the developing world are most at risk of economic instability if foreign companies cannot operate within them due to international travel restrictions. African governments, in particular, face the hardest decisions. The virus has not yet spread uncontrollably through major suburban slums and refugee camps, but the likelihood of this remains high, particularly in countries where militants are already forcing rural communities out of their homes and towards more secure areas.
While the governments of Somalia, Chad, Nigeria, Burkina Faso (for instance), will need to continue to take restrictive action to stop the spread and flatten the curve, they will also want to reopen their economies for business as soon as possible. Companies with operations in the developing world will doubtless want to follow events closely and should not rush to cancel business operations there, as these may resume sooner than expected.
They should remain calm and watchful to see how the international travel situation develops, while prioritising their core business. In the background, companies will be updating their contingency plans, focusing on sustaining their businesses in best and worst case scenarios, for example if travel remains impossible for 6, 12, 18 months, or beyond.
Given likely changes to national markets and the international economy, each scenario should be planned against. Secondly, companies will clearly anticipate and plan for the eventual resumption of normal operations, considering how the business environment in developing world nations is likely to have changed. This will include the different administrative, logistical and medical support that their travellers may need.
For instance, travellers to developing world nations may need to reconsider their insurance cover to include medical evacuations in all scenarios. They are also likely to require new protective equipment (particularly as facemasks are now becoming mandatory in some countries). They may also need a different security posture, as some countries, particularly those experiencing jihadist insurgencies, will be facing greater security threats as a result of the instability spread by the virus.
Finally it goes without saying that companies and travellers should research specific requirements extant in each country. There will be differences between the guidelines of all nations, and travelling staff must be given the support they need to ensure that they are following the correct procedures of the host country as well as their own national governments.