27 February – 18 March

A snapshot of media coverage on the coronavirus outbreak:

Peter Piot speaks to…

(12/03) Sky News about President Trump’s decision to impose a travel ban on flights to the US from Europe. Peter said: “It’s hard to imagine that this would have any impact on control of COVID-19.”

(06/03) TIME about the importance of protecting the most vulnerable groups. Peter said: “It’s really important not to give up and say, ‘Let everybody get infected and get it over with.’ That would lead to massive demand on the NHS. And let’s not forget that older people and people with chronic conditions are quite vulnerable — we need to protect them.”

(28/02) Financial Times about global efforts to tackle COVID-19. Peter said: “Collectively, we’ve done quite a good job. That’s why we need, how to say it, a fire brigade. You don’t set up a fire brigade when your house is already on fire.”

(27/02) Goldman Sachs about lessons from his prior work discovering and managing the Ebola virus, and steps to take to prepare for future outbreaks. Peter said: “You have to see what is feasible and what is acceptable – people’s traditions, cultures, political systems.”

Rosanna Peeling speaks to…

(16/03) Bloomberg about the prospects of a 10-minute COVID-19 test kit developed by Sengalese scientists. Rosanna said: “There is no shortage of lab tests in Africa, but what we want is the faster, cheaper test to quickly confirm if there is an outbreak and contain it before it gets bigger.”

(08/03) BBC News about the need for more readily available testing within communities in order to improve COVID-19 detection. Rosanna said: “Without this information we have a major knowledge gap to be able to control the outbreak.”

(06/03) Bloomberg about the difficulty in pinpointing the true extent of the virus’ lethality due to undetected cases. Rosanna said: “A lot of people are asymptomatic. We’re only seeing the cases that are confirmed and the cases of people presenting to the hospital because they can’t breathe.”

(28/02) Financial Times about Africa’s preparedness to deal with COVID-19.

Adam Kucharski speaks to…

(17/03) VOX about the importance of timing when implementing social distancing measures to ease pressure on health systems. Adam said: “By the time people are taking it seriously, even if you stop transmission completely, you still likely have another three or four weeks of hospitals filling up.”

(16/03) Evening Standard about the ‘dangerous and misleading’ assumption that the UK COVID-19 strategy is to create herd immunity. Adam said: “We must flatten the curve as much as possible to reduce the impact on the NHS, but many people could still get infected. The side-effect may end up being immunity, but this is merely a consequence of a very difficult situation, albeit one that may help prevent another outbreak. We are in this for the long term.”

(15/03) The Guardian about the difficulty in sustaining social distancing measures without population compliance. Adam said: “It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s just do what Wuhan did’, but the actions there have involved a change to daily life that has been unimaginable in scale and impact.”

(13/03) BBC about the dangers of simple comparisons of case numbers, citing the situation in Italy. Adam said: “Without efforts to control the virus we could still see a situation evolve like that in Italy.”

(13/03) WIRED about concerns that suddenly lifting measures such as border controls and quarantines could result in the reemergence of an epidemic. Adam said: “There’s evidence that the vast majority of the population is still susceptible in Wuhan. As soon as control measures are lifted, there is the risk of new introduced cases – and another outbreak.”

(10/03) The Guardian about the spread of the virus in Italy. Adam said: “The message is, if you have undetected transmission, if that is not taken seriously, you can very quickly get to numbers that can easily put a burden on your health service. You need ideally to be detecting outbreaks as early as possible.”

(09/03) BBC Newsnight (from 15:16) about the consistent transmission patterns seen by LSHTM’s Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases. Adam said: “We’re doing real-time modelling of the coronavirus for 15 countries … on average each person is infecting two or three others, and we’re seeing doubling every 4 to 5 days.”

(05/03) The New York Times about what the public should pay attention to during an epidemic. Adam said: “One signal to watch out for is if the first case in an area is a death or a severe case, because that suggests you had a lot of community transmission already.”

(05/03) The Telegraph about how more caution needs to be taken when communicating data on COVID-19 to the public. Adam said: “We’re exposed to huge amounts of data in our daily lives but one of the big challenges in any outbreak is about converting that data into knowledge. Numbers are flying around and they change rapidly. Any health agency has a responsibility to ensure that the data and conclusions are aligned with the current situation…we have to guard against the potential for rapid raw data to be misinterpreted.”

(03/03) The Guardian about how social behaviour such as handshaking shapes disease transmission. Adam said: “Obviously all these things can reduce transmission, but there’s no one quick fix. If this becomes an outbreak, it’s not going to be a matter of people making one small change to their behaviour. It’s going to be series of changes across a number of aspects to their behaviour.”

Charlotte Warren-Gash speaks to…

(18/03) The Guardian about the possibility that ibuprofen could aggravate symptoms of COVID-19. Charlotte said: “Research is needed into the effects of specific NSAIDs among people with different underlying health conditions, which takes into account the severity of infection. In the meantime, for treating symptoms such as fever and sore throat, it seems sensible to stick to paracetamol as first choice.”

(17/03) The Independent about NICE’s recommendations around non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for individuals with pre-existing health conditions. Charlotte said: “In England, NICE recommends prescribing the lowest dose for the shortest duration to prevent adverse effects such as gastrointestinal bleeding and cardiovascular or kidney problems.”

Graham Medley speaks to…

(17/03) The Sun about the uncertainty surrounding the current pandemic. Graham said: “Anyone who tells you that they know what is going to happen in the next six months is wrong.”

(16/03) The Atlantic about public misinterpretation of the UK’s COVID-19 strategy. Graham said: “People have misinterpreted the phrase herd immunity as meaning that we’re going to have an epidemic to get people infected.”

(14/03) The Independent about the importance of behaviour change to curb the spread of the virus. Graham said: “I think a good way of doing it is to imagine that you do have the virus, and change your behaviour so that you’re not transmitting it. Don’t think about changing your behaviour so that you won’t get it, think about changing your behaviour so you don’t give it to somebody else.”

(12/03) BBC Newsnight about the dangers of people changing their behaviour too late during the COVID-19 pandemic. Graham said: “The ideal situation is that people change their behaviour to reduce transmission before deaths get to be very big, and that is going to be a challenge.”

Roz Eggo speaks to…

(10/03) Channel 4 News (from 3:13) about the UK’s preparedness to contain COVID-19. Roz said: “Deciding when to put extra measures in place is a really difficult decision.”

(04/03) NPR about how computer modeling of the outbreak could help fight the virus. Roz said: “We try and give useful information to policymakers about what they would need to do with that strategy in order to have a good chance of controlling outbreaks.”

John Edmunds speaks to…

(10/03) Channel 4 Newsnight (from 6:58) about the dangers of intervening “too hard, too early” without developing community immunity and sustaining it. John said: “If you release the measures like in Wuhan and Italy and the population is still primarily susceptible, you’ll just get this epidemic again.”

(10/03) Reuters about Italy’s country-wide quarantine. John said: “These measures will probably have a short-term impact. If they can’t be sustained for the long term, all they are likely to do is delay the epidemic for a while.”

(09/03) Voice of America about the difficulty in forecasting the fatality rate during an epidemic. John said: “In the case of COVID-19, the time between onset of the disease and death is quite long so the number of cases that you should divide by is not the number of cases that we have seen to this point, but the number of cases that there were a few weeks ago.”

(05/03) Metro about how viruses in faeces are usually not infectious, amid WHO’s analysis that COVID-19 could spread in faeces. John said: “Usually, viruses we can detect in this way are not infectious to others, as they have been destroyed by our guts.”

(04/03) Yahoo! News about the difficulty in establishing an estimate of death rate. John said: “We do not report all the cases. In fact, we only usually report a small proportion of them. If there are many more cases in reality, then the case-fatality ratio will be lower. Estimating what fraction of the cases might be reported is very tricky.”

(03/03) Channel 4 News about the importance of the public following Public Health England’s advice to slow the spread of the outbreak. John said: “It’s not for the NHS to manage COVID-19 primarily, it’s for all of us to help manage it.”

Petra Klepac speaks to…

(18/03) The Guardian about the importance of handwashing as a preventative measure during a pandemic. Petra said: “You don’t have pharmaceutical interventions. You don’t have a vaccine. This is why we’re looking at nonpharmaceutical measures that are easily implemented.”

(17/03) The Guardian about why behavioural change is critical to slowing the spread of #COVID-19. Petra said: “We all have a role to play and a responsibility to modify our behaviour in order to protect the ones who are most at risk.”

(16/03) The Atlantic about the UK government’s communications around the outbreak. Petra said: “The messaging has been really confusing, and I think that was really unfortunate.”

(13/03) New Scientist about the difficulty in establishing the effectiveness of social distancing measures in different countries, due to different demographics. Petra said: It’s really location specific. It is telling us in Wuhan the measures have worked.”

Jimmy Whitworth speaks to…

(16/03) Financial Times about the concept of a European BARDA, an office responsible for the development of countermeasures against emerging diseases. Jimmy said: “We are increasingly vulnerable to a narrowing number of manufacturers . . . the more people are able to manufacture new therapies, new vaccines and so on, the better prepared we will be.”

(13/03) Sky News about the UK government’s COVID-19 strategy. Jimmy said: “Based on evidence from other countries, the most realistic approach to this is to initiate the strongest public health measures that will be supported by the general British public. I am surprised that stronger measures haven’t been introduced at this stage, but I anticipate that they will come in the next week or two.”

(05/04) Jimmy Whitworth talks to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme about delaying the peak of COVID-19 infections. Jimmy said: “What we need to do is make sure that the peak of the effect of this is as low as possible, so that we have the minimum disruption to society and the health services. I think the other point is that if we can delay it into the warmer summer months, the more the chance it will either die out over the summer.”

Heidi Larson speaks to…

(13/03) NPR about the dangers of misinformation during the current pandemic. Heidi said: “When you have an environment of restricted information on top of all those degrees of misinformation it makes decision-making difficult — both as an individual and as a government.”

(11/03) Heidi Larson is quoted in WIRED about the difficulty in drawing direct parallels between flu viruses and COVID-19. Heidi said: “We’re in a different situation now because H1N1 was not a new virus. That was one we had experience of because of a devastating epidemic from 100 years ago [the 1918 Spanish flu].”

David Heymann speaks to…

(10/03) TIME about how the spread of the virus may be attributable to the difficulty in detecting infected individuals. David said: “It’s understood how it is passed from person to person and in hospital settings where there is not adequate infection prevention and control — but how easily this spreads in other circumstances is not known at present.”

(10/03) CNN about why stopping the spread of COVID-19 is more difficult compared to stopping the spread of MERS. David said: “MERS spread mainly in hospital settings. Stopping this will be different than stopping MERS, which doesn’t transmit easily to people.”

(10/03) The Telegraph about COVID-19’s mutation. David said: “Nothing has occurred that is major and this virus appears to be stable. Small mutations are normal, especially with RNA viruses. We look for the parts of the virus that are most sustained.”

(02/03) The Daily Express about the danger in making predictions about the seasonality of the virus. David said: “The risk of making predictions without an evidence base is that they could, if they prove to be wrong, be taken as verity and give a false security. The emphasis today should continue to be on containment to elimination where possible.”

(02/03) Daily Mail about the quarantine measures implemented during the SARS outbreak in 2003. David said: “It took a lot of hard work. And we were lucky.”

Sally Bloomfield speaks to…

(10/03) iNews about why particular care should be taken after hand washing. Sally said: “If you’re travelling around, say on the train, you could go to the loo and as you’re walking back to your seat you’re touching all sorts of surfaces that other people touch.”

(05/03) The Telegraph about homemade hand sanitisers, amid online ‘hacks’ recommending the use of 99% alcohol. Sally said: “I don’t know how people are getting access to those concentrations. You would have to be working in a laboratory and fill out certain forms. The public should not have access to 90 per cent alcohol.”

(04/03) The Guardian about the dangers of the general public making their own sanitizer, due to only protecting against some bacteria. Sally said: “It’s very unwise, dangerous, even.”

Brendan Wren speaks to…

(11/03) The Independent about the transmission of COVID-19, amid MP Nadine Dorris contracting the virus. Brendan said: “This demonstrates that the virus can infect all walks of life. Although transmission is not always inevitable, contact tracing will take place to determine how she may have caught the virus and who she may have passed it onto. This may have implications for the operation of parliament.”

(04/03) Daily Mail about why masks are not an effective prevention measure. Brendan said: “They may make matters worse, such as if they become damp. The main purpose is a psychological thing – they make people more aware but physically they are not a prevention.”

Other LSHTM experts…

(17/03) Kalpana Sabapathy speaks to BBC News about how caution must be taken around taking ibuprofen to treat symptoms of the virus. Kalpana said: “Erring on the side of caution in the context of COVID-19 and so many unknowns, certainly it would be safer to stick to paracetamol.”

(14/03) Beate Kampmann speaks to The Telegraph about creating a ‘ring of immune people’ to protect the most vulnerable groups. Beate said: “If you cocoon the elderly and you increase herd immunity, then the spread of the virus in the community in a few months is going to be lower.”

(13/03) In New York Times, Nicholas Jewell highlights why timing matters when slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Nicholas said: “It’s as if humans can only think linearly. But for epidemic modelers, exponential growth is the very nature of the beast.”

(13/03) Shunmay Yeung discusses the effectiveness of face masks on BBC News. Shunmay said: “For most people, a face mask isn’t necessary…stockpiling means there aren’t enough for those that need them, such as healthcare workers.”

(11/03) Annelies Wilder-Smith tells The Guardian that ‘unwarranted comparisons’ with flu may have prevented western governments from taking rigorous containment actions. Annelies said: “The short-term costs of containment look high, but they’re much lower than the long-term costs of non-containment.”

(10/03) Preliminary research by LSHTM on COVID-19’s estimated fatality rate features in Business Insider and The New Yorker.

(08/03) Sandra Mounier-Jack and David Heymann reflect on previous outbreaks they have witnessed on the frontline, and the lessons that can be learned to tackle the coronavirus in The Telegraph.

(07/03) An LSHTM study which estimates that earlier evacuation of the Diamond Princess cruise ship could have prevented 2,920 people from being infected, features in The Telegraph.

(04/03) David Mabey tells The Guardian that Chris Whitty, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, is an “extraordinary, brilliant man. They couldn’t have a better person in charge.”

(04/03) Mark Jit is quoted in Sky News about the likelihood of a vaccine being developed before the outbreak ends. Mark said: “This isn’t a solution for 2020 – it might be a solution in the longer term. Even the most optimistic projections will suggest that the time before the vaccine can be used at a population level rather than just in clinical trials among a small number of people will be measured in years rather than months.”

(03/03) Preliminary research by LSHTM which is using social interaction data to help predict virus transmission features in Daily Mail.

(02/03) An LSHTM study that found global industrial expansion is directly amplifying the risk of the spread of new infectious diseases, features in Medium.

(28/02) Richard Coker discusses COVID-19 transmission in TIME. Richard said: “The transmission dynamics of this virus are like the flu. It’s very, very difficult to stop.”

(27/02) Martin Hibberd tells The Guardian that the scale of the task involved in tracing suspected COVID-19 cases could put a strain on developing countries. Martins said: “The worry is that there may be other countries that are less prepared, and that the virus may become more widespread worldwide. If that were to happen, even developed systems would possibly struggle to be able to check every possible suspect.”

Further LSHTM coverage

LSHTM is recognised by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as one of the UK’s “foremost specialist institutions” in Budget 2020, reported by The Telegraph.

Research by LSHTM that found bereaved individuals may face a higher risk of dying from melanoma features in the Daily Mail. Lead author, Sinead Langan said: “The study findings are interesting and may relate to bereaved people no longer having someone to help with skin examinations, leading to delays in diagnosis.”

Segun Fatumo is part of a new African Centre for Translational Genomics and features in Forbes: “Genomic medicine remains an important tool to provide some useful insights into the high burden of non-communicable disease in Africa. Partnerships of this nature could really change the future of healthcare in Africa and other global populations.”

May Van Schalkwyk sheds light on cigarette filters and the tobacco industry on BBC Radio 4’s Inside Health (from 4:00). May said: “It creates some sort of health halo around the cigarette.”

Comments are closed.