21 – 27 May

A snapshot of media coverage on COVID-19

Peter Piot

(26/05) Peter recounts his first-hand experience of contracting and recovering from COVID-19 in the New York Times. Peter said: “I had three stages — first fever, then needing oxygen, and now the storm. People think that, with COVID-19, 1 percent die and the rest just have flu. It’s not that simple — there’s this whole thing in the middle.”

(23/05) Peter tells Der Spiegel that we should be more open to unconventional ideas in our COVID-19 response. Peter said: “I do think it is possible that we will have a treatment for COVID-19 before we have a vaccine. Thus far, the goal has exclusively been that of combatting the virus. But maybe we also need to think about controlling the immune response. We should test whether antiviral agents might be suitable as preventive agents as well.”

(21/05) Peter warns against “vaccine nationalism” in the fight against COVID-19, on CNN’s Amanpour programme. Peter said: “We need to make sure that everybody who needs it, gets it. And that it’s not just limited to a few countries that produce these vaccines.”

Heidi Larson

(27/05) Heidi is quoted in Nature about public confidence in vaccines. Heidi said: “If the public opt to forgo vaccination the way they did during the 2009 swine-flu pandemic, we’re in deep trouble.”

(26/05) Heidi recalls watching her husband, Peter Piot, being taken into the COVID-19 ward in the New York Times. Heidi said: “When I saw Peter go through the double doors on that cart — I had the same feeling as the Ebola families we knew in Sierra Leone.”

(24/05) Heidi explains how timing can affect a vaccine’s uptake in The Atlantic. Heidi said: “In mid-March, 7% said they would refuse a COVID-19 vaccine, which dropped to 5% when deaths spiked, then rose to 9% during talk of loosening lockdowns.”

Stephen Evans

(27/05) Stephen tells talkRADIO (from 01:44) that very few drugs alone have dramatic benefits in the treatment of infectious diseases. Stephen said: “When we look back at HIV, we found that even though individual drugs worked quite well, the way to make a big difference was by using a combinations of drugs.”

(26/05) In the Financial Times, Stephen comments on the provisional approval of remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19 patients in the UK. Stephen said: It is important to realise that this allows for legal access to an unlicensed medicine. The amount of evidence on remdesivir’s efficacy and safety is still limited and it’s possible it will not become licensed.”

(26/05) Stephen discusses the suspension of trials of hydroxychloroquine in the Evening Standard. Stephen said: “A definitive answer still awaits the results of the randomised trials, but it is clear that the drugs should not be given for treatment of Covid-19 other than in the context of a randomised trial.”

Roz Eggo

(26/05) On BBC Horizon (from 43:16), Roz explains why contact tracing and quarantine measures are needed on top of mass testing efforts to curb COVID-19 transmission. Roz said: “We think people are infectious for a fairly short time, and so they’ll only test positive for a short amount of time.”

(22/05) Roz is quoted in The Guardian about role of children in COVID-19 transmission. Roz said: “The available evidence suggests that they may play a smaller role in the epidemic as a whole. This new evidence will help us better understand the possible effect of school reopening on transmission in schools and in the community.

Adam Kucharski

(26/05) Adam is quoted in the Daily Mail about why a combination of social distancing measures, contact tracing and mass testing is needed to tackle COVID-19. Adam said: “An important finding of our study was that moderate social distancing, combined with contact tracing and testing, could help control the spread of COVID-19 while reducing the number of people who need to be in quarantine.”

(25/05) Adam describes the unpredictable nature of disease outbreaks, and how pandemics can differ greatly, in the Irish Independent (£). Adam said: “If you’ve seen one pandemic… you’ve seen one pandemic.”

(21/05) Adam speaks to BBC Radio 4 (from 25:54) about the dangers of countries lifting lockdown restrictions without tracing systems in place. Adam said: “We have to be very careful about lifting restrictions without having something in place that can ensure reduction in transmission. The hope over time is that we can have something more targeted like track and trace, so that we don’t need these blanket measures. But the UK and many countries are still seeing cases appear, so we have to be cautious about how lift those measures.”

Jimmy Whitworth

(22/05) In Huffington Post, Jimmy Whitworth emphasises the importance of mass testing and contact tracing to curb COVID-19 transmission. Jimmy said: “Testing and tracing is most feasible as an effective strategy at the start of an outbreak when there are just a few chains of transmission of the disease.”

(21/05) Jimmy explains the importance of “human capital” in mass contact tracing and testing efforts, in The Guardian. Jimmy said: “The human element is central. If you have a web-based system or an app, those are things that add value but they don’t replace the human capital. They are good when tracing becomes difficult like if a confirmed case has got on a bus. That’s where an app can identify potential contacts.”

Sally Bloomfield

(22/05) Sally explains how to minimise packaging contamination when eating, in BBC News. Sally said: “Empty the contents into a clean dish, dispose of the packaging into a refuse bag and wash your hands thoroughly before you eat.”

(22/05) On BBC Radio 5 Live (from 2:50:52), Sally outlines the precautions that are needed when ordering a takeaway during COVID-19. Sally said: “Make sure it’s from a reputable supplier and that they have highest hygiene standards. COVID-19 is not a food poisoning organism – if it’s ever in our food it’s because of the people who have prepared the takeaway.”

Other LSHTM experts

(27/05) Dixon Chibanda is quoted in BBC Future about the Friendship Bench, an intervention developed in Zimbabwe to bridge the mental health treatment gap. Dixon said: “It’s rooted in evidence-based therapy, but it’s also equally rooted in indigenous concepts. I think that’s largely one of the reasons it’s been successful, because it’s really managed to bring together these different pieces using local knowledge and wisdom.”

(27/05) Richard Coker writes in The Guardian, highlighting the importance of maintaining public trust during COVID-19. Richard said: “Public health is about trust, a largely unwritten contract between all of us and the state. We need to trust that we each have our own and others’ interests at heart, that we share a sense of solidarity and will all do our best to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

(27/05) Martin McKee comments on remdesivir as a potential treatment for COVID-19 on LBC. Martin said: “This is a really complex multi-system disease so ultimately, any treatment that we have is likely to involve a combination of drugs that do different things to prevent the virus from infecting the body. This certainly is encouraging, although I think it’s a bit early to be absolutely clear on what it will do.”

(26/05) Alex Bowmer writes in The Conversation about why banning bushmeat could make it harder to stop future pandemics. Alex said: “Because of bushmeat’s cultural value, taking away the choice to consume it permanently would probably be resisted. It would also likely encourage unregulated underground markets.”

(26/05) Val Curtis explains how social factors can affect adherence to COVID-19 precautionary measures, in New Scientist. Val said: “To encourage a particular behaviour, it’s important that people perceive that everybody around them is doing that behaviour.”

(24/05) David Heymann explains why some people experience long-lasting symptoms following initial COVID-19 infection, in The Guardian. David said: “In some persons they begin to feel well again and signs and symptoms including fever decrease, but some then go on to develop respiratory distress and must be provided oxygen in hospital. It appears to be a delayed immune response that is more serious in some persons and that reacts to remaining virus in various organs.”

(22/05) Brendan Wren comments on the changing nature of current estimates of reproduction number in the UK, on Sky News. Brendan said: “I think the key issue is that it really needs to be backed up with real-time diagnostic tests and at the moment, we’re still getting 3,200 new cases each day.”

(22/05) LSHTM modelling that suggests that there are more than 100 vaccine-preventable deaths for every COVID-19 death prevented by cancelling routine immunisations, is featured in The Telegraph (£).

(22/05) Mishal Khan cautions in The Telegraph (£) that a lack of reliable death data will add to uncertainty about the result of lockdown relaxations in Pakistan and India. Mishal said: “Among public health people there is a strong feeling that accurate death info is going to be really useful to see the impact of increasing population mingling, although there doesn’t seem to be a good source of this information.”

(22/05) Martin Hibberd explains why false negative COVID-19 test results can be particularly dangerous, in The Guardian. Martin said: “This could be devastating if a patient was returned to a care home and passed the disease on.”

(22/05) Chris Bonnell discusses the need for contact tracing to support the reopening of schools on LBC. Chris said: “If there’s an infection in a bubble, then the bubble needs to be sent home until we can establish whether they have got an infection.”

(22/05) Annelies Wilder-Smith explains why timing is crucial in curbing COVID-19 spread, on BBC News. Annelies said: “The effectiveness of quarantine measures really depends on timing, and that’s why countries that have low cases will need to focus on extremely stringent entry measures. But it always has to be combined with containment at source.”

(21/05) Chris Retsch outlines research findings that show black and Hispanic Americans are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19 on BBC World Service’s Science in Action (from 17:30). Chris said: “Our findings highlight the need for improved strategies to prevent and contain further outbreaks in ethnic minority communities.”

Social Media

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where we released our latest Viral podcast episode with James Logan, Clare Guest and Steve Lindsay, who discussed the current research underway into whether dogs can detect COVID-19.

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