26 Mar – 1 Apr

A snapshot of media coverage on COVID-19

David Heymann speaks to…

(29/03) CBS about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in America. David said: “This is a vicious, violent virus, and everywhere it has appeared, it’s caused great numbers of people to die. And it’s also spread very easily in communities. So what’s happening in the US has happened around the world. What has been different is the strategies to contain the virus.”

(29/03) Bloomberg about why different countries have had such different outcomes in the fight against the coronavirus. David said: “A little bit of investment before these outbreaks would have prevented the major investments that are having to be made now.”

(29/03) The Times about the UK’s COVID-19 strategy. David said: “I think they have been doing what is necessary in the UK, as are many other countries. They may have used a different mixture in the UK, but no one can say at this point what is right or wrong. In two to three weeks when they do their risk assessments, they will be looking to see if they’ve accomplished the goal of what they set out to do.”

(27/03) Reuters about the worldwide implications of COVID-19. David said: “What’s happening is that the world is experiencing something it never has before, and I think the world will be forever changed by it. There is a great mobilisation now to share and collaborate, and I hope that continues after this crisis abates. If so, I think the world will be a better place.”

Sally Bloomfield speaks to…

(31/03) Yahoo! News about how supermarkets could be a potential hotspot for COVID-19 transmission. Sally said: “The supermarket provides an ideal setting for this to occur – many people touching and replacing items, checkout belts, cash cards, paper receipts – not to mention being in the proximity of several other people.”

(27/03) BBC News about how to clean food packaging properly. Sally said: “For contained or packaged goods, either store them for 72 hours before using them or spray and wipe plastic or glass containers with bleach that is carefully diluted as directed on the bottle.”

Heidi Larson speaks to…

(30/03) Nature about how suppressing information about COVID-19 could fuel misinformation and endanger public health. Heidi said: “This is a complicated landscape that is not just a matter of debunking a piece of misinformation. Advice to “Keep calm and carry on” can have exactly the opposite effect in the context of a fatal, and evolving, new virus.”

(27/03) The BMJ Opinion about the need for greater trust in vaccines as well as the institutions and individuals that deliver them. Heidi said: “Trust building is urgently needed at multiple levels and will be paramount for public health.”

Ed Parker speaks to…

(30/03) The Guardian about the potential cumulative effects of a low viral load. Ed said: “Studies in mice have also shown that repeated exposure to low doses may be just as infectious as a single high dose. So all in all, it is crucial for us to limit all possible exposures to COVID-19, whether these are to highly symptomatic individuals coughing up large quantities of virus or to asymptomatic individuals shedding small quantities.”

(27/03) New Scientist about viral load. Ed said: “The viral load is a measure of how bright the fire is burning in an individual, whereas the infectious dose is the spark that gets that fire going.”

Kalpana Sabapathy speaks to…

(31/03) BBC News about the likelihood of the NHS becoming overwhelmed during the coronavirus outbreak. Kalpana said: “The simple answer is that we don’t really know. It’s always going to be a close call. But obviously, the sooner they can bring out additional beds, additional staff, additional equipment, the better.”

(26/03) BBC News about guidance for people in high-risk groups when it comes to shopping for food. Kalpana said: “I would suggest contacting your local GP practice who can put you in touch with volunteer groups offering their services. But if that’s not possible, then trying to go to the supermarket at times when it’s quiet would be advisable, and certainly not forgetting the two metre rule.”

Jimmy Whitworth speaks to…

(01/04) New Scientist about the seasonality of COVID-19. Jimmy said: “If we look at the epidemic in Australia  – where it is still their summer, moving towards their autumn – there are a lot of cases and they’re having an acceleration of an epidemic there. So I take from that that warm weather is not going to be highly protective for us.”

(01/04) The Herald about the potential effectiveness of earlier lockdown measures in Scotland. Jimmy said: “It is pretty clear when you look at the data for different countries that the earlier you introduce these measures the more effective they are, so in that respect if they were introduced in Scotland – or Scotland was part of them – at an earlier stage then it will have had more effect.”

(31/03) Full Fact about the likelihood of COVID-19 reinfection. Jimmy said: “There have been a few isolated examples where reinfection has been reported. That people were positive, then they were negative, then they were positive again. It looks like, in the great majority of cases, this doesn’t happen. That people get infected once. My suspicion is that those discrepant test results that we get are to do with, actually, the sampling.”

(28/03) The Telegraph (£) about why European governments may have been slower to lockdown communities due to a ‘wait and see’ approach. Jimmy said: “Now it is here and it’s very much a reality, I think the public is taking these public health control measures very seriously. I think the Government here and the general public are determined to get on top of this. We are, after all, trying to minimise deaths.”

Adam Kucharski speaks to…

(31/03) BBC Radio 4 (from 9:50) about what determines the spread of a disease such as COVID-19. Adam said: “I call it the D.O.T.S… The first is D, the duration of infectiousness. How long are you spreading virus for? But then it’s also what happens when you’re infectious, the O. The opportunities you have. How many conversations you have, how many places you go. The T is the transmission probability. During an opportunity there’s a certain probability you might cough. The S is the susceptibility of the person you’re interacting with.”

(28/03) The Hindu about how transportation networks and interlocking economies can amplify the effects of epidemics like COVID-19. Adam said: “When you have that connectivity, what happens in a local area of China can quickly influence what happens in other countries. Potentially, what would have been a very small outbreak a few decades ago that wouldn’t have affected other places, now affects what happens elsewhere, such as the UK, the U.S., or India.”

(27/03) The Financial Times about the importance of a disease’s reproduction number. Adam said: “Breaking the reproduction number down . . . can help us work out the best way to control an epidemic.”

(26/03) The Guardian about why caution needs to be taken when interpreting the results of a preliminary University of Oxford study, suggesting that half of the UK population have already been infected with COVID-19. Adam said: “We still don’t know the exact risk, and we won’t until we have the results from a large-scale analysis of blood samples.”

Stephen Evans speaks to…

(30/03) The Daily Mail about the dangers of self-medicating with non-approved substances to treat symptoms of the coronavirus. Stephen said: “Using non-approved substances, even if the active ingredient in a medicine is in another non-medical product, it is dangerous to use it as if it were a medicine.”

(27/03) The Guardian about human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine. Stephen said: “There are risks that some aspects of pre-human testing have been reduced or omitted, but the benefits of getting the vaccine as quickly as possible could outweigh such potential theoretical risks.”

Martin McKee speaks to…

(01/04) LBC about the global shortage in COVID-19 testing kits. Martin said: “The difficulty is that we came to a very late stage of the challenge and as a consequence, everybody is looking for the equipment to do this, the chemicals required. There are shortages of all these things required worldwide.”

(27/03) The BMJ Opinion about why politicians need to be careful before deflecting blame during a pandemic. Martin said: “Words have consequences, especially when amplified by media outlets that seem determined to inflame hatred of others. Politicians, wherever they are, should think very carefully before speaking in the present circumstances.”

Other LSHTM experts…

(01/04) John Edmunds is quoted in Reuters about the importance of adhering to the UK government’s COVID-19 measures, following preliminary estimates from LSHTM suggesting that lockdown restrictions could be driving the reproduction number below one. John said: “Our estimates are not to be read as ‘job done’. Rather, they should be used as motivation for us all to keep following UK government instructions. It’s imperative we don’t take our foot off the pedal. We must continue to stop transmission of the virus to reduce the burden on the NHS now, and over the coming months.” John’s comments also feature in the Straits Times and The Times of Israel.

(31/03) In the CFR’s Think Global Health forum, Mishal Khan discusses the challenges that people in resource-constrained settings face during COVID-19, including accessing quality healthcare. Mishal said: “One size will not fit all when it comes to lower-income country responses, and a rapid analysis of the risk factors for COVID-19 spread relevant to each country, led by the government’s COVID-19 task force, should form the foundation of coordinated actions.”

(31/03) David Leon discusses the value of COVID-19 figures from the Office of National Statistics in The Guardian. David said: “What ONS has done is important as it starts to provide a more complete picture of the impact of COVID-19 on mortality.”

(31/03) Andy Haines, Anna Goodman and Sam Clifford are quoted in The Telegraph (£) about the benefits of cycling, amidst early signs of its discontinuation during the coronavirus outbreak. They said: “Cycling, particularly in green space, is good for mental as well as physical health. Cycling can be compatible with social distancing if people are responsible.”

(31/03) Ellen Fragaszy comments on the potential seasonality of the current COVID-19 outbreak in the Daily Mail. Ellen said: “In temperate regions, many respiratory viruses follow a seasonal pattern, with winter peaks during the cold and flu season.”

(31/03) Graham Medley explains why the UK government is struggling to scale up COVID-19 testing in iNews. Graham said: “Now that every country in the world wishes to increase testing capacity the international supply chains are stretched, and it is proving difficult to set up the infrastructure quickly. It will happen, but not immediately.”

(31/03) In South China Morning Post, Leesa Lin cautions that discrimination against East Asians could prevent best health practices during the coronavirus outbreak. Leesa said: “Targeting Asians creates a false sense of security that others, based on their appearance alone, may be exempt from social distancing or physical distance in practice.”

(30/03) Liam Smeeth discusses why Germany’s case-fatality rate is low, despite being one of the worst-affected countries in TIME. Liam said: “Between countries there are several reasons why the death rate might vary, but they’re very small compared to the impact of how many people get tested. Germany very rapidly rolled out testing to a very large number of people, relative to the population.”

(30/03) Shunmay Yeung emphasises that mask-wearing is not essential for the majority of people in South China Morning Post. Shunmay said: “One of the problems if lots of people who don’t need face masks are using face masks or stockpiling them, it means that there aren’t enough face masks available where they’re really needed.”

(30/03) In The Guardian, John Edmunds explains that a lag between social distancing policies and hospitalisations mean that any slight slowdown in the rate of COVID-19 cases is unlikely to reflect the impact of the lockdown yet. John said: “It takes that long to feed into the system.”

(29/03) Citing polio, Grace Macklin discusses how vaccines may create problems when immunisation campaigns do not reach everyone on BBC World Service (from 22:03). Grace said: “If you conduct poor quality response and perhaps only provide immunity for 60 or 70 per cent of the population, the virus will persist.”

(29/03) Tim Crocker-Buqué questions reports that coronavirus patients in critical care have a 50 per cent survival rate in inews. Tim said: “To say the mortality rate of ICU patients is 50% is misleading and may induce panic. More accurately, it shows of the 21% of those patients who have left critical care, 48% of them had died. However, it excludes the 79% patients who do not have an outcome yet.”

(29/03) In the Evening Standard, Brendan Wren warns that the UK’s coronavirus death toll will continue to rise as the outbreak moves towards an expected peak in around three weeks. Brendan said: “Coupled with the observation that the infection can affect all walks of life even without underlying health conditions, this may be a sobering thought for any of the population flouting hygiene measures and/or social distancing.”

(28/03) Roz Eggo discusses the effectiveness of the UK’s physical distancing measures on Channel 4 News (from 3:07). Roz said: “We know that decreasing the number of contacts between people should slow transmission. Because of time delays – about five days from getting infected to showing symptoms, and about a week from showing symptoms to needing hospital care – we’ll be able to see a decrease in transmission first in the hospital care cases and then later in death. So there will be some indication sooner than three weeks that things are working and we need to keep an eye on those.”

(28/03) James Logan is quoted in The Telegraph about the possibility of dogs becoming diagnostic tools for COVID-19, amidst new research involving LSHTM. James said: “We know that other respiratory diseases change our body odour so there is a very high chance that dogs will be able to detect this virus. If this could become a diagnostic tool, it has the potential to revolutionise our response to COVID-19.” James’ comments also feature in The Times of India and New York Post.

(28/03) In Forbes, Sunil Bhopal calls for lower speed limits to ease the pressure on coronavirus-impacted hospitals. Sunil said: “In England alone, there are around 35,000 non-fatal admissions to hospital every year related to road traffic accidents.”

(27/03) Mark Jitt talks to New York Times about the possibility of a second outbreak spurring future clampdowns. Mark said: “People should be prepared for the fact that we are not going back to completely normal life for a while. But we also need to allow people to see the light at end of the tunnel.”

(27/03) Alex Akin speaks to BBC Newsbeat about whether rooms need to be deep cleaned after self-isolating in them. Alex said: “Viruses are actually fairly delicate bits of material, so they don’t survive very long.”

(27/03) Barbara De Barros explains how weakend immune systems make those affected by leprosy in India vulnerable to COVID-19 in The Independent. Barbara said: “The corticosteroids used to treat leprosy reactions significantly alter the immune system. These people are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 because of this.”

(26/03) In The Guardian, Kiesha Prem cautions against relaxing COVID-19 restrictions in Wuhan too soon. Kiesha said: “The city now needs to be really careful to avoid prematurely lifting physical distancing measures, because that could lead to an earlier secondary peak in cases. But if they relax the restrictions gradually, this is likely to both delay and flatten the peak.”

(26/03) Martin Hibberd is quoted in WIRED about why Germany’s case-fatality rate sits comparatively low to other countries. Martin said: “Germany’s a little bit earlier on in the process than Italy. It takes two or three weeks of intensive care before people often succumb to the disease.”

(26/03) Stefan Flasche discusses the possibility of multiple COVID-19 peaks in NBC. Stefan said: “One scenario is we can indeed reverse the spread as done in China and South Korea, then reach a point to lift the distancing measures. But we may have to repeat this cycle for a few times because of an inevitable resurgence of cases in the absence of population immunity. In that scenario, we would see multiple peaks in the upcoming 12 months.”

(26/03) Yang Liu speaks is quoted in Reuters about the effectiveness of social distancing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 worldwide. Yang said: “We think one thing probably applies everywhere: physical distancing measures are very useful, and we need to carefully adjust their lifting to avoid subsequent waves of infection when workers and school children return to their normal routine. If those waves come too quickly, that could overwhelm health systems.”

Further LSHTM coverage

LSHTM’s Centre on Climate Change & Planetary Health’s call for climate-damaging products to come with smoking-style warning labels features in The Guardian. They said: “Warning labels connect the abstract threat of the climate emergency with the use of fossil fuels in the here and now, drawing attention to the true cost of fossil fuels pictorially or quantitatively.”

Andy Haines and Pauline Scheelbeek write in The BMJ about the integral role healthcare professionals play in protecting public health and tackling climate change. Andy and Pauline said: “Health professionals have a responsibility to act locally, nationally, and internationally—both as individuals and through their professional bodies—taking a leading role in supporting the implementation of policies that will protect health and tackle the pressing challenges of the Anthropocene.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where we celebrated reaching 100,000+ sign ups to our online COVID-19 course.

https://twitter.com/LSHTM/status/1243499945996554243

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