12 April 2022

Outbreak 24: Simulation of a highly lethal pandemic

Outbreak 24: Simulation of a highly lethal pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is the first global pandemic since the Spanish flu 100 years ago that was probably three times more deadly than the currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 pathogen. If you look at the social, economic and political consequences of the ongoing Corona pandemic – especially with regards to the performance of public health systems and the effectiveness of multilateral cooperation – it is hard to imagine where the outbreak of an infectious disease with a significantly higher mortality rate would lead to.


This is exactly the question we have explored

The Bureau fuer Zeitgeschehen (BfZ) was commissioned by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Panama / Regional Program Alliances for Democracy and Development with Latin America (ADELA) to design a realistic simulation of such an extreme situation and to carry it out in the foundation’s Villa La Collina on the shores of Lake Como.

“Outbreak 24” is the title of our multi-day event during which renowned experts from nine countries and four continents simulated the pandemic occurrence of a highly lethal and extremely infectious virus variant (SARS-CoV-5) under the guidance of the BfZ in November 2021. A basic assumption of “Outbreak 24” was that even the disturbing experiences of the current pandemic will not lead to a fundamental improvement in international crisis and health management. Or in other words: “We always manage the last pandemic.”

In three rounds, each initiated by increasingly severe developments in a “Breaking News” format, the participants were put in a state of maximum uncertainty in which they had to make far-reaching policy decisions on behalf of their governments. Using dynamic computer models, the teams were able to simulate the course of the pandemic in their countries depending on the governmental interventions they made.

Answers to questions about the national coordination of measures and responsibilities had to be found as urgently as strategies to contain the virus effectively. Keeping public peace, protect supplies and the security of critical infrastructures were other categories of major relevance – always accompanied by the need for coherent crisis communication.

Key findings would be as follows: The currently crumbling international system is not well equipped to manage a highly lethal pandemic. This is why large and influential states play a key role in achieving cross-border, solidarity-based and cooperative pandemic management. Private-sector competition plays an essential role in the rapid development of vaccines; state coordination is needed above all for the provision of research funds and the distribution of vaccines (as well as for policy coherence). Regional organizations such as the EU or the AU can serve as political and public health innovation platforms to which other – non-integrated – states also attach themselves; in this way some of the functional deficits of the international system would be bridged effectively.

The talented filmmakers DIE ZWO accompanied the event and captured many voices and impressions in the following video.


YouTube video: Long version

Production company: DIE ZWO

The simulation was also discussed in the Spanish newspaper Política: To the article

Two participants from Argentina analyzed their findings in the following video podcast: To tweet incl. video


Working materials of the simulation:

Presentation and Overview of the Simulation

Template for measures in round 1 & 2

Guiding questions for round 1 & 2

Guiding questions for round 3