2 – 8 April

A snapshot of media coverage on COVID-19

Since 1 January, LSHTM has featured in over 23,000 pieces of coverage on the coronavirus outbreak across print, broadcast and online.

David Heymann

(08/04) David discusses the current lack of knowledge around coronavirus antibodies in The Independent. David said: “Antibodies really aren’t understood yet. They may be high, they may be low, they may be protective, they may be not protective.”

(08/04) David is quoted in Reuters about the risk of the American government cutting WHO’s funding. David said: “If the WHO loses its funding, it cannot continue to do its work. It works on a shoe-string budget already. It would be disastrous.”

(07/04) David talks to Al Jazeera about Africa’s preparedness against COVID-19. David said: “It’s possible that Africa may be spared more than the rest of the world because they have a younger population, and this infection is less severe in younger populations. As we’ve heard before, it’s not really clear whether or not this will take a foot hold in Africa. What’s important is that Africa knows how to deal with these outbreaks – I look at the Ebola outbreak as an example.”

(07/04) In Huffington Post, David explores the concept of an ‘immunity certificate’ to allow individuals more freedom from lockdown measures. David said: “If there is a passport rolled out where there are people with antibodies who are then able to go back to work, there has to be clear instructions to them as to what that means and the risk of trying to become infected themselves.”

(07/04) David highlights the importance of collecting precise data in The Telegraph (£). David said: “Community surveys will provide us with an idea of the level of people infected and that is very important to inform the modelling. Modelers use the best possible data at the time they do the modelling, but this changes rapidly.”

(05/04) David speaks to BBC World Service (from 5:40) about the threat of trade sanctions preventing countries from reporting disease outbreaks in the early days of the WHO. David said: “It was clear that you could not force countries to report and they didn’t want to report.”

(03/04) David comments on the effectiveness of face masks outside of hospital settings in The Guardian. David said: “We can’t automatically assume that because face masks work in hospitals, they will work everywhere. The reason masks are effective in hospitals is partly because they are changed often and correctly fitted.”

(03/04) In The Independent, David highlights how variation in testing across countries may affect the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. David said: “Testing is being done in different countries in different ways and for different purposes. In the UK right now testing is being done to diagnose patients – what you’re seeing is the number of people they test that have signs and symptoms. People are only looking for cases or contacts of cases, and contract tracing is imperfect.”

Graham Medley

(07/04) Graham speaks to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme (from 2:45:15) about the critical role of physical distancing in curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Graham said: “The intervention we have, the only one we know that works and one that I urge everybody to obey, requires everybody being isolated.”

(08/04) Graham is quoted in ITV News about a children’s ebook he has helped to develop with the of creators of The Gruffalo, to help children adjust to the ongoing outbreak. Graham said: “Helping children understand what is going on is an important step in helping them cope and making them part of the story – this is something that we are all going through, not something being done to them. This book puts children in the picture rather just watching it happen, and in a way that makes the scary parts easier to cope with.”

(07/04) In The Independent, Graham discusses the possibility of an extended lockdown in the UK. Graham said: “The current measures in the UK are absolutely necessary to reduce transmission and reduce the death and disease caused by the virus. Before we can lift them we have to be sure that we have the interventions in place to ensure that exponential growth doesn’t start up again. What those interventions are is undefined as the moment.”

(07/04) Graham is quoted in i News about the seasonality of COVID-19. Graham said: “There is very little hope that warmer weather in UK will have any effect. Even if it had been true … it just means that we would be in the same position when the weather got cooler again.”

John Edmunds

(07/04) John is quoted in Reuters about the importance of lockdown measures to slow COVID-19 transmission in the UK. John said: “At the moment we don’t know what’s going to happen in six months. All we know is that unless we stop transmission now, the health service will collapse.”

(05/04) John talks about the impact of a blanket ban on outdoor exercise in The Telegraph (£). John said: “As long as you keep a reasonable distance away from others, your risk will be reduced to extremely low levels. Hence, banning people from exercising out of doors would have a negligible impact on the epidemiology of this disease but a marked impact on peoples’ mental health and wellbeing.”

(05/04) John discusses the UK government’s current focus on testing in The Guardian. John said: “It would help, but it’s not the solution. Everyone seems to think there’s some sort of nirvana that lies beyond just having lots of tests.”

(03/03) John speaks to Channel 4 News about the effect of the UK’s physical distancing measures on the COVID-19 peak. John said: “We think the reproduction number is now below one, which means that the epidemic should start to peak … That doesn’t mean the epidemic is over, though. It just means that we have stopped it from growing.”

Annelies Wilder-Smith

(05/04) Annelies speaks to BBC World Service (from 1:45) about the development cycle of a vaccine. Annelies said: “All recent vaccines took at least 10 years so obviously during an outbreak like this one, there is an incredible political will and a lot of money and lots of interest to speed up the process. So, there is hope that there will be a vaccine within 12 to 18 months.”

(03/04) In Bloomberg, Annelies suggests that while the evidence is inconclusive, face masks could act as a broader protective measure against COVID-19. Annelies said: “It’s just common sense that a mechanical barrier must do something.”

Francesco Checchi

(04/03) Francesco is quoted in New York Magazine’s Intelligencer about the result of overwhelmed hospital systems on excess deaths from non-coronavirus-related illness. Francesco said: “It is a classic problem when resources are so overwhelmed and not prepared that you don’t know how to rationally allocate resources. You end up making a lot of mistakes.”

(03/04) In New Scientist, Francesco explains the difficulty in implementing lockdown measures in low-income countries. Francesco said: “Extreme population-wide social distancing and travel restrictions, if sustained over a long period, could be very harmful for fragile, export-dependent economies and stretch livelihoods beyond people’s coping ability.”

Martin Hibberd

(07/04) Martin is quoted in The Telegraph (£) about potential COVID-19 ‘exit strategies’. Martin said: “The successful strategies we have seen elsewhere involve very large-scale testing of the population and as much contact tracing as possible to enable the identification of people who are positive for SARS-CoV-2 and so able to transmit the disease.”

(05/04) Martin discusses the possibility of the UK easing its lockdown measures in The Telegraph (£). Martin said: “A combination of some social distancing measures, extensive testing and automated contact tracing could allow both a more regular social activity and a significant control of the outbreak.”

(03/04) Martin speaks to Al Jazeera about whether individuals can build immunity to COVID-19. Martin said: “Although we need more evidence to be sure of this, people who have recovered are unlikely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 again.”

James Logan

(06/04) James speaks to Bloomberg’s CityLab about the potential for dogs to assist in mass COVID-19 testing efforts. James said: “We have four or five dogs ready to go into training right now. If we were able to deploy them within a month or two, we could screen maybe 4,000 to 5,000 people per day. In the short-term, there are some locations where dogs might be appropriate to us such as screening medical or care staff, or people going into schools and other community areas.”

(03/04) James appears on CNN to discuss whether dogs can be trained to detect asymptomatic patients. James said: “We demonstrated that dogs could detect the odours associated with malaria infection and they can do that with very high accuracy. So, we know that dogs have this amazing ability to smell and to learn smells. If COVID-19 has a smell, we would be able to train dogs to detect it.”

Brendan Wren

(07/04) Brendan is quoted in Insider about the advantages and disadvantages of different vaccine types. Brendan said: “Live attenuated strains are required to deliver a strong and suitable immune response, but live attenuated strains could have safety issues. The subunits vaccines, which are based on the cell surface of the virus or bacteria are generally safer, but may not deliver a strong enough immune response and booster vaccines may be required.”

(06/04) In the Daily Mail, Brendan cautions against online misinformation linking 5G technology to the coronavirus outbreak. Brendan said: “There is no scientifically credible evidence to link the introduction of 5G masts with the COVID-19 outbreak. This would be both a physical and biological impossibility.”

(02/04) Brendan speaks to LBC about the effectiveness of the UK’s lockdown strategy. Brendan said: “Some recent studies suggest that what we’re doing in the UK is having quite the preferred effect – even with some people essentially going to work and people going out doing shopping.”

Jimmy Whitworth

(07/04) Jimmy speaks to LBC about why mass coronavirus testing is urgently needed. Jimmy said: “The evidence that is coming to us now suggests that people are infectious before they start to get sick and that means there are people walking around who potentially could infect other people … if we don’t know who’s infected and we are not able to get them out of the general community or indeed out of their houses, then we’re going to be in a situation where we’re just continuing to try to catch up all the time.”

(07/04) Jimmy is quoted in Devex about the idea of a new ‘G20 for public health’. Jimmy said: “Transparent sharing of health data collected by governments is often slow and limited … any call to do something to change that situation is to be welcomed.”

Other LSHTM experts

(07/04) Polly Roy talks to Channel 4’s FactCheck about coronavirus immunity. Polly said: “Generally, people should not be re-infected but they might still have some residual replicating viruses in their body.”

(07/04) Ed Parker explains how a high amount of viral load can impact individuals in International Business Times. Ed said: “For influenza, we know that that initial exposure to more virus — or a higher infectious dose — appears to increase the chance of infection and illness. Studies in mice have also shown that repeated exposure to low doses may be just as infectious as a single high dose.”

(06/04) In Financial Times, David Leon highlights the need for a new approach when comparing COVID-19 mortality data around the world. David said: “We propose that national statistics agencies rise to this challenge and make data public domain with minimal delay broken down by sex, age group and subnational region. This well help beat the current pandemic and formulate lessons for future outbreaks.”

(04/04) Heidi Larson speaks to Al Jazeera about the concept of ‘immunity passports’. Heidi said: “The principle of it is an important one. In particular, when it comes to frontline workers. They don’t have to stay under lockdown for two weeks suspecting they might have the virus. Instead, they can go back to work straight away if it was clear that they had been exposed and they were immune. Given that we’re at the start of a rapidly escalating trend here, we’re going to need people on their toes.”

(03/04) Richard Coker explains why alternatives to prison, such as house arrest, may be a safer option in the Daily Mail. Richard said: “The risk to any individual is likely to be much lower in the wider community, where social distancing is feasible, than in a place that is, by definition, a congregate setting.”

(03/04) In Huffington Post Sally Bloomfield advises against reusing plastic takeaway boxes due to lingering surface germs. Sally said: “I know we’re all environmentally conscious but we have to balance risks – and this risk is now taking priority.”

(03/04) Martin McKee talks to The Globe and Mail about the lessons that can be learned from Italy’s outbreak. Martin said: “The Italian experience stresses the need for the best PPE at all times. A number of countries should have been more prepared in advance.”

(02/04) On TRT World’s RoundTable programme, Mishal Khan discusses the difficulties that developing countries may encounter when dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. Mishal said: “On the socio-economic side, it’s lack of access to water and sanitation when people are being asked to be at home … On the health system side – in addition to the lack of human resources and equipment – a huge issue is the poor governance around the private healthcare providers. Some might be stepping up in good faith but others are actually for-profit providers and might not be following guidelines.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where we marked World Health Day by celebrating the unwavering commitment of nurses, midwives and healthcare workers around the world, especially on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.


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