9-15 April

A snapshot of media coverage on COVID-19

Martin McKee

(14/04) Martin explains why timing is crucial to slowing COVID-19 transmission on BBC News. Martin said: “When we look at the cross national comparisons, we can see those countries that intervened earlier in the pandemic managed to keep the death rates much lower, so clearly the timing has been crucial.”

(14/04) On Sky News, Martin outlines why UK lockdown measures should persist. Martin said: “There’s a false dichotomy between protecting the economy and protecting health. We have good historical evidence from the 1918-1919 flu pandemic: the cities that closed down earlier and stay closed for longer, recovered much faster … it’s not an either or situation.”

(13/04) Martin discusses the prerequisites needed for easing lockdown restrictions on BBC Radio 4 (from 8:49). Martin said: “The first is that we need to have accurate data on the state of the pandemic – unfortunately we don’t have that at the minute … if you look at the online resources, it only tells you about when the deaths were reported not when it took place. If we don’t have that information we have no idea whether it’s plateauing or if it’s still going up.” 

(13/04) On LBC, Martin explains that there are “mathematical and epidemiological criteria” that need to be met before lifting social distancing measures. Martin said: “We have to get the reproduction number below one, and we need to see that the deaths are declining which they don’t appear to be at the moment.”

Annelies Wilder-Smith

(15/04) Annelies comments on the COVID-19 outbreak in Sweden on Al Jazeera. Annelies said: “The most important indicator that the situation may be worsening is the exponential growth from day to day. I suspect that Sweden will have a slower curve than other countries but it will still see a smaller tsunami.”

(11/04) In Bloomberg, Annelies says the Swiss government were slow to heed the WHO’s COVID-19 recommendations. Annelies said: “This is the host country of the WHO and the host country initially did not follow WHO advice.”

David Heymann

(15/04) David discusses the role of the WHO in fighting COVID-19 on BBC Radio 5 Live (from 2:09:15). David said: “The WHO is an extremely important clearing house of information that comes from all countries. It takes that information, it analyses it and makes recommendations in real-time, so it’s a very important organisation technically. What’s very interesting is that despite the geopolitical tensions in the world. the WHO continues to work as it always does in its technical areas.”

(15/04) David is quoted in the Daily Mail about President Trump’s decision to halt funding to the WHO. David said: “Being an American, I’m very unhappy that the United States would not be providing funding to a multilateral organisation as important as WHO.”

(09/04) David explains that reopening economies would be difficult without validated antibody tests in The Times of India. David said: “Until they’re available, it’s going to be a guessing game.”

(09/04) David comments on the global COVID-19 situation in The Mirror. David said: “We can’t really predict the destiny of a new and emerging infection. At present, we can only say that it’s in populations now, and that it looks like it’s on a trajectory to continue transmitting for a time, but we just don’t know what will happen in the long-term.”

Beate Kampmann

(14/04) In the New York Times, Beate explains the importance of sustaining routine immunisation during COVID-19. Beate said: “There are virtually no registrations for vaccinations in West Africa other than parent-held records … An entire birth cohort of infants could miss out on vaccinations altogether with serious consequences. Even in resource-rich settings there is a danger of measles raising its ugly head in the not-too-distant future.

(14/04) Beate cautions about the dangers of delaying measles vaccinations amid COVID-19, on BBC World Service (from 44:41). Beate said: “This is what I refer to as potential collateral damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s only natural that all of our attention is focused on COVID-19 but there are a number of already vaccine-preventable diseases like measles that can cause serious illness and death … it’s also a disease that can affect the lungs and the combination between COVID-19 and measles could be an absolutely deadly duel.”

(12/04) In The Guardian, Beate discusses an accelerated vaccine development paradigm for COVID-19. Beate said: “People now appreciate that the lengthy process of conventional licensing of vaccines is not going to be helpful in the context of an epidemic. We’re getting to candidates much more quickly. The step-up in technology that we have seen in the last five years has really made a difference.”

Adam Kucharski

(11/04) Adam talks to BBC News about when the UK lockdown could be lifted. Adam said: “Essentially we’ve got a lot of not very good options, it won’t be one day and everything will change, but things could open up.”

(10/04) Adam discusses the idea of releasing young people from the UK lockdown first, on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme (from 2:38:29). Adam said: “It’s not just the risk to those particular age groups, it’s also the knock-on effects. For example, you could allow more social interaction in younger groups but if those groups interact with at-risk groups, that’s going to offset any change in transmission you have.”

(09/04) Adam speaks to BBC Newscast about whether the UK’s curve is beginning to flatten. Adam said: “There is some good signals that transmission is probably declining, particularly looking at social behaviour data. Social interactions have probably dropped about 70%, so if that reflects the national picture then that’s quite a substantial drop.”

Stephan Evans

(14/04) Stephan discusses the progress of current COVID-19 candidate vaccines in the Express. Stephan said: “We simply do not know whether any, all, or some of these vaccines will be satisfactory. This requires both that they induce an immune response in humans sufficient to provide immunity in COVID-19, but also that they do not have serious unwanted effects as well.”

(10/04) Stephan cautions against the results of an early analysis of remdesivir in Bloomberg. Stephan said: “The data from this paper are almost uninterpretable. There is some evidence suggesting efficacy, but we simply do not know what would have happened to these patients had they not been given the drug.”

Other LSHTM experts

(15/04) Peter Piot is quoted in the Daily Mail about President Trump’s decision to halt funding to the WHO. Peter said: “Halting funding to the WHO is a dangerous, short-sighted and politically motivated decision, with potential public health consequences for all countries in the world, whether they are rich or poor.”

(15/04) Richard Coker speaks to Al Jazeera about the results of a new study, suggesting COVID-19 symptoms are much milder than previously thought. Richard said: “If it’s generalisable, what it tells us is that the number of people who have no symptoms or very limited symptoms is quite a lot more than we estimated before … this suggests that a substantially higher proportion of people are asymptomatic and that has implications … immunity to the virus may be wider than expected … it also tells us that how we measure the spread of the disease is less certain than perhaps we thought.”

(14/04) Martin Hibberd comments on new broader ONS figures, which now include community deaths from COVID-19 in Reuters. Martin said: “These new figures clearly show the impact of COVID-19 for the first time.”

(14/04) Brendan Wren reacts to Eamonn Holmes’ comments on 5G technology and COVID-19 in The Huffington Post. Brendan said: “I welcome inquiring minds, but this needs to be based on some fact and not pedalled as a conspiracy as this causes untold damage.”

(14/04) Liam Smeeth highlights the importance of ‘graded rehabilitation’ for post-coronavirus patients in The Telegraph (£). Liam said: “You won’t be able to go from not being able to concentrate to reading Tolstoy the next day. You have to build up slowly. You might previously have done a brisk one hour walk, but slow that down and stop often to see how you feel. Be kind to yourself.”

(14/04) Joy Lawn discusses how COVID-19 could affect preganancy in the Daily Mail. Joy said: “Several published small Chinese studies do not conclusively prove if there is vertical transmission of the virus to the baby, but with more data coming now from Italy and the US, there are some reported cases.”

(14/04) In the New York Times, Nick Jewell outlines how the timing of social distancing measures can have an ‘extraordinary’ impact on the US’s death toll. Nick said: “The data and science are clear: It’s always too late if you wait until you think the number of deaths is sufficient to act … It is important to understand that lockdowns are not a solution to the virus, but they do buy us time to better prepare for further waves of infection and to develop treatments and vaccines.”

(14/04) Martin Antonio highlights some of the unique challenges that lie ahead for Africa in the fight against COVID-19, in NBC News. Martin said: “Most of the population are very poor, and the women go to the markets daily for cooking. If you lock down for 45 days, as they have in Gambia, one has to wonder how people are going to put food on the table.”

(11/04) Liam Smeeth says that reopeing schools may be a more sensible option for easing lockdown restrictions, in TIME. Liam said: “It’s going to have to be a gradual, phased process in some way … With young adults, you can’t stop them moving around in random directions in random combinations of people with all different levels of contact. It’s very hard to predict.”

(11/04) In BBC News, Francesco Checci explains how malnutrition might mean that COVID-19 could be more deadly in Africa than elsewhere in the world. Francesco said: “Economic recession and deteriorating livelihoods mean impoverishment, malnutrition, worsened access to routine health services, and that in turn all means lives lost as well. Lives lost not just among the old but also among children and younger people. So there is a really difficult equation there.”

(10/04) In The Sun, Jimmy Whitworth highlights why the UK lockdown must continue. Jimmy said: “Every life matters. Each person lost is a family member, a friend, a neighbour, a human being. They are not a number on a spreadsheet. This lockdown is the only way for us to get back on our feet.”

(09/04) Research by LSHTM showing that COVID-19 has spread to every WHO region, features in BBC News. The researchers said: “It’s effectively spanning all climatic zones, from cold and dry to hot and humid regions.”

Further LSHTM coverage

Heidi Larson highlights why trust in vaccines is just as important as vaccines themselves in a TED talk. Heidi said: “The Nigerian strain of the polio virus spread to over 20 countries…the cost of a rumour.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where Peter Piot commented on President Trump’s decision to halt funding to the WHO.


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