30 January – 6 February

A snapshot of media coverage on the coronavirus outbreak

Peter Piot speaks to…

(05/02) Financial Times (£) about the “inevitable” likelihood of an outbreak in Africa. Peter said: “I wonder if there aren’t already cases. It seems remarkable that an increasing number of European countries have cases, that almost all Asian countries have cases and that there are some in the Americas, but that there are none from Africa.”

(02/02) The New York Times (£) about the possibility of a pandemic. Peter said: “This looks far more like H1N1’s spread than SARS, and I am increasingly alarmed. Even 1 percent mortality would mean 10,000 deaths in each million people.” Peter’s comments were also featured in The Straits TimesThe Indian Express and The Sydney Morning Herald.

(31/01) CNA about the World Health Organization’s decision to declare the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Peter said: “It came a bit late… the most important thing is that no country waited for that declaration to put in place measures to contain this epidemic.”

(31/01) The Straits Times about the potential severity and virulance of the novel coronavirus. Peter said: “The month of February is going to be very critical, and will tell us if the outbreak is going to be much bigger or not. If the virus spreads in nations that have healthcare systems that are less developed, it might be a cause for concern.”

(30/01) The New York Times (£) about why the World Health Organization’s emergency declaration process is flawed. Peter said: “It is time for the WHO to change its all-or-nothing, binary approach to declaring an emergency. In every emergency, there is a spectrum of alert levels.”

Professor David Heymann talks to…

(06/02) BBC Radio 4 (from 2:15:13) about the difficulty in tracking accurate case numbers. David said: “The numbers are always probably greater because what we don’t understand is the spectrum of the disease. We don’t understand how many infections are actually asymptomatic. We have mild symptoms like cold and so it’s very difficult at this point in time to really identify cases.”

(06/02) The Guardian about the importance of up to date information. David said: “What helps in an outbreak is to know what you don’t know. The evidence will come, as the rate of transmission and reproductive rates are estimates, not models. Models are only as good as the information in them.”

(05/02) Sky News about the importance of developing a vaccine for future epidemics. David said: “In the case of SARS there was lots of interest in developing a vaccine but that disappeared rapidly after the outbreak was contained and over. Today we have a new coalition – the CEPI – which is based here in London and which is simulating development of vaccines and hopefully that will continue to stimulate development of corona vaccines after this outbreak is over. It may not be effective in getting a vaccine ready for this outbreak, a vaccine may not even be necessary.”

(04/02) The Daily Mail about the possibility of a new vaccine in the immediate future. David said: “A vaccine is a long way off. There will not be a vaccine probably to deal with this outbreak, but there is work being done on coronavirus vaccines in general. I’m confident that there will one day be a coronavirus vaccine.” David’s comments were also featured in The Sun and the Daily Star.

(04/02) The Evening Standard about the likelihood of the coronavirus becoming an endemic disease. David said: “We don’t know yet whether this will become a disease which is endemic in human populations. We can assume that coronaviruses have probably emerged in the past.”

(01/02) The Guardian about the vulnerability of healthy people in middle age, following the death of a 36-year old. David said: “This 36-year-old is an enigma. We know that the majority of people who have died to date have co-morbidity and are elderly.”

(01/02) The Mail On Sunday about the effectiveness of masks as a protective measure. David said: “In general they are not known to be effective in protecting against infection.”

Jimmy Whitworth is quoted in…

(01/02) The Independent about the usefulness of masks to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Jimmy said: “There’s little evidence they are very effective. They’re more beneficial if you have a virus and don’t want to pass it on than to prevent catching anything.”

(31/01) The Daily Mail about the importance of tracking down individuals who have been in contact with coronavirus patients. Jimmy said: “What you don’t want is this to spread any more in the community. Now we believe that people can be infected before they actually show symptoms, that means cases and contacts will need to be tested to see if they are infected or not.”

John Edmunds speaks to…

(05/02) South China Morning Post about the difficulty in ascertaining the effectiveness of containment measures. John said: “Given that the serial interval appears to be reasonably long, then it would take a bit of time for effects to be seen.”

(31/01) The Guardian about the first diagnosis of coronavirus in the UK. John said: “This event, whilst unwelcome, is not surprising. However, the UK authorities have been preparing for this for some time, and it seems as if appropriate measures are being taken to limit onward spread.”

Other LSHTM experts…

(06/02) Polly Roy reflects on SARS and cautions that industry interest in a coronavirus vaccine could plummet as the outbreak slows down in WIRED. Polly said: “It had gone so fast that no one wanted the vaccine anymore. If there’s no profit, then manufacturers don’t want it anymore.”

(01/02) Annelies Wilder-Smith cautions that ‘panic buying’ of face masks is unwarranted and could pose risks for health workers in CNBC. Annelies said: “People who are well should refrain from hoarding masks ‘just in case’ they need it, as this may lead to a lack of masks in settings that really need it. While we should take the outbreak seriously, we mustn’t panic and behave in a manner that is disproportionate to the threat we are confronted with.”

(31/01) Sally Bloomfield provides general hygiene advice when travelling in Huffington Post. Sally said: “Planes are just like any other living environment. The more crowded it gets, the more likely there is to be a spread of harmful germs.

(30/01) Preliminary research by LSHTM on the effectiveness of airport screenings features in The Telegraph.

Further LSHTM coverage…

Peter Piot’s pioneering work in co-discovering the Ebola virus is featured in The Telegraph

Research by LSHTM’s Cancer Survival Group on cancer survival disparities is featured in the Daily Mail, The Telegraph and ITV News.

Michel Coleman is interviewed by France 24 on the effects of Brexit on the NHS.

Rosemary Green is quoted in Harper’s Bazaar about the environmental benefits of the ‘low food chain’ diet. Rosemary said: “It’s not a completely vegan diet, but the emissions are really low because those animals are converting energy much more efficiently than an animal that is much higher up the food chain, like a cow or a sheep.”

On social media:

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where we announced the launch of our brand new podcast, Viral:

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