19 – 25 March

A snapshot of media coverage on COVID-19.

Since 1 January, LSHTM has featured in more than 13,000 pieces of coverage on the coronavirus outbreak across print, broadcast and online.

Many thanks to colleagues who are sparing the time to conduct media engagement in a period when it is vital for the public to receive informed, clear and accurate information on COVID-19.

Annelies Wilder-Smith speaks to…

(25/03) The Guardian about the likelihood of a COVID-19 vaccine being ready before the end of the year. Annelies said: “Like most vaccinologists, I don’t think this vaccine will be ready before 18 months”

(24/03) Al Jazeera about whether the UK’s strategy to curb COVID-19 transmission has gone “far enough”. Annelies said: “With these social distancing measures, there will be a flattening of the curve. But people must be aware it will take a week or two before we see the curve flattening. Until then, we just have to obey the government.”

(24/03) The New York Times (£) about the prevention of profiteering during the COVID-19 outbreak, amidst a surge in private clinics selling ‘scarce’ testing kits at inflated prices. Annelies said: “While I am all for liberal and extensive testing, and am not against the private sector offering testing, the government needs to clamp down on any exploitation during a time of crisis.”

Martin Hibberd speaks to…

(25/03) NewScientist about whether individuals can develop immunity to reinfection after recovering from COVID-19. Martin said: “The evidence is increasingly convincing that infection with SARS-CoV-2 leads to an antibody response that is protective. Most likely this protection is for life. Although we need more evidence to be sure of this.”

(23/03) BBC Panorama (from 12:31) about the need for widespread testing in the UK to combat the outbreak. Martin said: “We can see now that they have ramped up mass testing and we’re now building up relatively slowly compared to some other countries… I would say too little too late.”

(23/03) The Telegraph about the prospects of a new antibody test which can tell whether people have been infected with coronavirus in the past. Martin said: “When this diagnostic does become available, I think it will become a big help in tackling the disease. Most likely this will be reserved for frontline healthcare workers and other key workers first and perhaps vulnerable groups later, before becoming more widely available.”

(20/30) The Telegraph about the difficulty if comparing COVID-19 case numbers across countries, due to discrepancies in testing. Martin said: “It’s too early to make a comparison across Europe. We do not have detailed serosurveillance of the population and we do not know how many asymptomatic people are spreading it.”

(19/03) Reuters about herd immunity. Martin said: “When about 70% of the population have been infected and recovered, the chances of outbreaks of the disease become much less because most people are resistant to infection.”

Sally Bloomfield speaks to…

(25/03) The Sun about the risk of COVID-19 exposure from food packaging. Sally said: “Although hands and hand contact surfaces are thought to be a major contributor to spread, the main risk comes from hand contact surfaces recently and frequently touched by many other people.”

(23/03) BBC Radio London (from 1:08) about social distancing guidance for individuals who are living with those at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Sally said: “You have to behave in the home as if you might be infected. That means keeping your distance from the people who are self-isolating.”

(23/03) Daily Mail about whether businesses such as hair salons should remain open during the pandemic. Sally said: “On the basis that we should limit any non-essential social interaction, hair salons should be closed to fall in line with the other measures that have been introduced.”

Adam Kucharski speaks to…

(25/03) The Guardian about why COVID-19 prevalence data should be treated with caution. Adam said: “We have to make the best use of the data we’ve got when analysing the epidemic, but given that only a proportion of cases are being reported, we should be very cautious about assuming the case counts reflect the actual level of infection out there.”

(24/03) The Times (£) about the need to address coronavirus misinformation online. Adam said: “To tackle the unprecedented situation we are facing with COVID-19, we don’t just need to control the virus. We also need to find ways to deal with the viral information that spreads alongside it.”

(23/03) BBC Breakfast about the importance of social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak. Adam said: “It’s not just a case of meeting one or two fewer people per day. We really need a massive reduction in our interactions to bring this under control.”

(23/03) The Guardian about the need to consider time lag between infection and death when calculating case-fatality rate from the coronavirus. Adam said: “Strictly speaking we should say something like: transmission in the UK four weeks ago was where Italy was about six weeks ago.”

(21/03) The Daily Express about the importance of collecting data on young people to inform COVID-19 transmission. Adam said: “One of the challenges with survey data is you get much more participation in older age groups. To have these young groups, young professionals, is just fantastic, we don’t have this in such a scale anywhere else.”

(20/03) Vox about the longevity of the coronavirus outbreak. Adam said: “I think this idea that if you close schools and shut restaurants for a couple of weeks, you solve the problem and get back to normal life — that’s not what’s going to happen. The main message that isn’t getting across to a lot of people is just how long we might be in this for.”

(19/03) BBC News about whether lockdown measures alone can curb the spread of COVID-19 in the UK. Adam said: “This idea that we can seal off London isn’t necessarily going to prevent us having a very serious crisis in the rest of the country too.”

Martin McKee speaks to…

(25/03) The Telegraph (£) about the need for international consensus around the classification of COVID-19 cases. Martin said: A pandemic is, by definition, a global problem. The response is only as strong as its weakest link. If one country is failing to collect data accurately, then our picture is by definition incomplete.

(23/03) The Washington Post (£) about the pressure placed on health systems around the world, amidst the current pandemic. Martin said: “The problem is that health systems, we talk about them as adaptive, but they have the capacity to fall over. They can expand so much, but at some point, the whole thing collapses.”

(23/03) LBC about why it’s not possible to truly compare like-with-like when it comes to assessing the outbreak in different areas of the UK. Martin said: “We need to look at the country as a series of regions rather than looking at the country as a whole, because the picture is clearly different in London from what it is in other parts of the country. And with that, there needs to be severe restrictions in London.”

Kalpana Sabapathy speaks to…

(24/03) Daily Express about whether drinking warm water can kill the coronavirus. Kalpana said: “One gaping hole in it is the likelihood that you managed to flush the viral particles down into your stomach. You would probably have already got them in your nostrils by then, for example – it’s not fool proof.”

(21/03) BBC News about why masks are not an effective preventative measure against COVID-19. Kalpana said: “They end up being counterproductive because what happens is, it’s irritating, it makes you sweaty, it itches. People then end up touching their face and touching the areas that are inadvisable to.”

John Edmunds speaks to…

(24/03) BBC Radio 4 (from 21:18) about the lag between the implementation of travel restrictions and their impact on the COVID-19 curve. John said: “It looks like the NHS is going to reach capacity in the next couple of weeks and because of these lags, we have to take rapid action right now to stop the epidemic growth.”

(19/03) Science Focus about reducing the reproduction number of COVID-19. John said: “All the measures that we have put in place will reduce R0. Exactly by how much is hard to say at this time, as we have never tried these measures before. But overall, we would expect them to reduce R0 to a low level – even to below 1. The aim is to try and reduce transmission and minimise the size of the epidemic.”

Jimmy Whitworth speaks to…

(22/03) The Guardian about the COVID-19 situation worldwide. Jimmy said: “This disease is going to stick with us for a long time. It is going to be an experience that none of us have had before in our lifetimes.”

(21/03) LBC about the importance of protecting frontline hospital workers amidst strains on the NHS. Jimmy said: “We need to make sure the people who work in intensive care are not getting completely exhausted or not able to protect themselves as well as they should because they’re so tired. We need to make sure we’re able to actually manage the flow of patients through hospitals.”

David Heymann speaks to…

(23/03) David Heymann speaks to BBC World Service about how the 2003 SARS outbreak has aided Hong Kong’s response to COVID-19. David said: “Now they are having quite good success in dealing with this outbreak. In particular, they have been able to get the population to understand clearly how they can protect themselves and others if they themselves are sick by wearing a mask.”

(20/03) The Sun about the aftermath of China’s mass lockdown measures. David said: “The measures had succeeded in stopping spread to other regions. The concern is what will happen after they end these measures.”

Other LSHTM experts…

(25/03) An exclusive live COVID-19 Q&A co-hosted by Jimmy Whitworth and Heidi Larson was featured in PR Week. Katie Steels, Head of Communications and Engagement said: “Giving a global audience the opportunity to interact with such senior scientists in real time offers value to communities around the world – especially during an outbreak which is evolving so rapidly day by day.”

(25/03) On Channel 4 News, Stephen Evans cautions that people suffering from COVID-19 like symptoms should avoid self-medicating with chloroquine. Stephan said: “The precautions required and the dangers of it interfering with or being affected by other medicines are very extensive. It is vital to listen to medical advice from people who know rather than relying on statements from those without detailed medical knowledge.”

(25/03) In The Independent, Rob Hughes highlights the critical need to reduce the strain on the NHS. Rob said: “We all must do everything we can to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 epidemic while also rapidly scaling up hospital capacity. At the same time, we need to not miss opportunities to reduce the demands on NHS emergency services through implementing policies which we know work to keep people safe and out of overstretched hospitals.”

(25/03) In Newsweek, Brendan Wren comments on a report by Imperial College London that found China have appeared to been able to ease social distancing measures without COVID-19 returning. Brendan said: “The latest data from Wuhan is encouraging and points the way to implementing strict social distancing measures in getting the epidemic under control. However, we still have no idea of the proportion of the population who are still susceptible to the potential re-emergence of the virus.”

(25/03) Stefan Flasche is quoted in CNN about how the virus’s peak is influenced by the efficiency of lockdown measures. 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.”

(25/03) Edward Parker talks to Sky News about the importance of individuals reducing their viral load. Edward said: “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.”

(25/03) Richard Coker comments on the case of three UK immigration detention centres detaining people with coronavirus symptoms in Forbes. Richard said: “It is plausible and credible that 60 per cent of detainees could become infected with COVID-19 in a matter of weeks.”

(25/03) Edmong Ng and Leesa Lin discuss the negative impacts of racism on curbing the spread of COVID-19 in China Daily. Edmond said: “Stigmatization may alter the health-seeking behavior of those being discriminated against and may contribute to an increase in the disease spreading.” Leesa added: It creates an untrue impression that some members of society have somehow done something wrong or are less human than the rest of us, which feeds stigma and undermines empathy.”

(23/03) In International Business Times, Mark Jit explores the “best and worst-case scenario” after the COVID-19 outbreak ends. Mark said: “It’s not like a Hollywood movie with a clear ending where everyone is saved, or everyone dies, quickly. The best-case scenario is that we have vaccine in 12 or 18 months and then our lives go back to normal. In the worst-case scenario it takes a long time for a vaccine to be developed, and the world is really changed and our lives aren’t the same again.”

(22/03) Roz Eggo explains to Al Jazeera how different testing policies in countries around the world affect the reliability of COVID-19 prevalence data. Roz said: “A confirmed case in one country doesn’t represent the same confirmed case elsewhere. Some countries only test hospitalised cases. Others test suspected cases in the community. This makes it challenging to interpret and understand the true number of infections out there.”

(20/03) Charlotte Warren-Gash discusses the mixed evidence on whether individuals with COVID-19 should take ibuprofen in The Independent. 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.”

(20/03) Beate Kampmann explains the vaccine development process step-by-step in inews. Beate said: “Issues such how easy it is to make the vaccine for millions of people and its availability and costs are considerations when choosing between more than one.”

(19/03) Peter Piot features in CNN’s exclusive flagship Amanpour programme, and explains what we know so far about the coronavirus and how to fight it. Peter said: “It will not be possible to eliminate, to wipe out this virus unless we have an effective vaccine. But what we can do is limit the damage and make sure that people are not dying. And therefore the strategy is to flatten the curve so that not everybody gets infected at the same time, so that the health systems are not overwhelmed.”

Further LSHTM coverage

Alan Dangour speaks to NHK World-Japan about the impact of our changing diet on population health. Alan said: “The evidence is overwhelming. The food system will be enormously challenged by environmental change. We need to act.”

In Devex, Rachel Lowe explains how climate change is having an effect on vector-borne diseases such as malaria. Rachel said: “Variation in climatic conditions, such as temperature, rainfall patterns, and humidity, impact the abundance and longevity of the mosquito, the development of malaria parasites in the mosquito, and, subsequently, malaria transmission.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where we hosted our second live COVID-19 Q&A with Heidi Larson and Jimmy Whitworth. The live stream was viewed by over 8,000 users on Twitter and YouTube.

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