18 – 24 June

A snapshot of media coverage on COVID-19

Peter Piot

(24/06) On The China Current, Peter highlights the importance of mass behavioural change as a “second line of defence” against COVID-19 in the absence of an effective vaccine. Peter said: “As long as there’s one person on earth carrying this virus, it’s a risk for the rest.”

(23/06) Peter gives a personal account of his experience with COVID-19 on BBC News. Peter said: “Loneliness is a very big burden on this disease … This is a very nasty virus and I myself underestimated what it can do to the body.”

(21/06) Peter states that he is in favour of reducing the two-metre rule as long as it is accompanied by the mandatory wearing of face masks, on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One (from 37:00). Peter said: “It created a false sense of security – it’s not as if beyond two metres there’s no risk. I’d rather be at one metre of someone who is infected, but if both of us wear a mask than at two metres without a mask.”

John Edmunds

(24/06) On BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme (from 1:51:18), John emphasises that an effective test and trace system will be vital to stopping the spread of COVID-19 after the easement of lockdown measures in the UK. John said: “There’s a risk that transmission might take off again so we have to be really vigilant. This is where the test and trace systems needs to be really working well to make sure we stamp out any infections that occur.”

(23/06) John discusses the easing of lockdown restrictions in the UK, in The Guardian. John said: “The social distancing rules that have been in place since March have had two effects: first, the number of contacts that we make has been drastically reduced; and second the nature of these contacts has also become safer, as we seldom meet inside and we have been maintaining two metres of distance wherever possible. Relaxing the two-metre rule at the same time as opening bars and restaurants does run the risk of allowing the epidemic to start to regain a foothold.”

Sally Bloomfield

(24/06) On BBC News, Sally highlights the importance of an effective track and trace system to curb COVID-19 spread. Sally said: “If we do get a spike of outbreaks, we’ve now got the track and trace situation up and running, so we should be able to sit on those little fires and stamp them out before they become more general increases that lead to another lockdown.”

(23/06) Sally cautions that the pandemic is not over yet on BBC Radio 5 Live (from 45:08). Sally said: “We’re not through this and we’ve got to stick to the basic rules, and adapt.”

(19/06) Sally explains how we can shop safely at supermarkets during the pandemic, on BBC Two’s Keeping Britain Fed (from 47:10). Sally said: “There’s a possibility that within 1ml of saliva, we could have seven million virus particles, and it only needs maybe 100 to 1,000 to infect us. So one of the key things we have to do in supermarket is to respect the two-metre rule.”

Martin Hibberd

(24/06) Martin discusses how we can trace asymptomatic COVID-19 patients on BBC Two’s Newsnight (from 25:10) Martin said: “The only way we find those is by either systematically testing everybody or by serological surveys. Some people probably have a very mild infection in the upper airways and may not notice at all. If we can manage to find out how they contain the virus so effectively, maybe we can learn how to progress that on to other people so that everyone could be protected.”

(24/06) Martin reinforces that antibody tests are an important component of the public health response to COVID-19 in BBC News. Martin said: “If used successfully, the data generated will be important surveillance information for understanding the effectiveness of control measures put in place.”

Martin McKee

(22/06) Martin discusses recent COVID-19 outbreaks around the world on Sky News. Martin said: “The outbreaks in meat packing factories in Germany and in Wales highlights the risks that are occurring. We have got cases going up – a recent outbreak in Beijing and more cases in Spain and in South Korea. So the risk is very clearly there, and we can anticipate that we will continue to have localised outbreaks.”

(18/06) Martin speaks about the regional differences in COVID-19 transmission in the UK, on LBC. Martin said: “The nature of the epidemic in London is different to the North East or the North West, so we need to look at the local epidemiology.”

Other LSHTM experts

(24/06) Graham Medley cautions that contact rates need to be kept low during the epidemic on BBC Two’s Newsnight (from 28:42). Graham said: “The only thing that stops COVID-19 is some kind of immunity, either vaccine generated or potentially infection generated. We don’t know whether the immunity will wane or whether it will last forever, but we have to stay in a secure environment and keep contact rates low.”

(24/06) David Heymann is quoted in The Telegraph (£) about the importance of rapid testing to curb a second COVID-19 wave. David said: “A second wave is not inevitable if countries, such as the UK, begin to contact trace … They need to then be rapidly diagnosed – and that means within hours rather than in days – and then contacts of those patients need to be identified and they need to be asked to self-quarantine.”

(24/06) In The Times of India, Finn McQuaid discusses LSHTM modelling research that estimates at least 110,000 additional tuberculosis deaths could occur in China, India and South Africa due to health service disruptions from COVID-19. Finn said: “Given that health service disruption far outweighs the benefit of social distancing, it is crucial to maintain and strengthen TB-related health services during, and after, COVID-19.”

(24/06) Julian Peto is quoted in The Telegraph (£) about the feasibility of weekly testing at a population level to control the spread of COVID-19. Julian said: “If one in 2,000 people are infected at any one time, and we can test and identify them, we only have to lock down one in 1,000 households.”

(22/06) In The Telegraph (£), Liam Smeeth comments on a Nature Medicine study that suggests immunity to COVID-19 rapidly declines. Liam said: “We need larger studies with longer follow-up in more populations, but these findings do suggest that we cannot rely on people having had proven infections nor on antibody testing as strong evidence of long term immunity.”

(21/06) James Logan explains how a dog’s acute sense of smell could potentially aid the detection of COVID-19, in The Observer. James said: “We could detect a spoonful of sugar in a cup of tea, but a dog could detect a spoonful of sugar in two Olympic-sized swimming pools.”

(21/06) Adam Kucharski discusses the possibility of a second COVID-19 wave in BBC News. Adam said: “The evidence is the vast majority of people are still susceptible, in essence if we lift all measures we’re back to where we were in February.”

(20/06) Roz Eggo talks about the role of children in COVID-19 transmission, in NPR. Roz said: “What we found was that people under 20 were about half as susceptible to infection as people over 20 … Looking at the global picture if this was like flu, you would ordinarily expect places with more children to have more intense epidemics.”

(20/06) Preliminary LSHTM research that projects a worst-case scenario of up to 85,000 COVID-19 deaths in Yemen, based on an unmitigated epidemic, features in ITV News.

(18/06) In The Guardian, David Leon discusses the geographic variation in COVID-19 deaths in the UK. David said: “This epidemic has clearly had a serious impact on many local authorities that are not highly urbanised. Going forward, understanding the reasons for this substantial geographic variation will be crucial in drawing lessons for the future.”

Further LSHTM coverage

(24/06) Amid rising temperatures in the UK this week, LSHTM’s research which found that up to 90 per cent of heat-related deaths occur before the official alert thresholds are reached, features in The Telegraph (£).

(24/06) Heather Wardle comments on UK betting firms’ decision to reroute £100m of funds to tackle problem gambling in The Guardian. Heather said: “This situation whereby the industry controls who to fund, when to fund and what the level of funding should be is untenable.”

(19/06) In The Telegraph (£), Ian Roberts discusses the findings of a large-scale study showing that tranexamic acid, commonly used to prevent deaths from gastrointestinal bleeds, does not work. Ian said: “A lot of what we think we know, we don’t know. A lot of what we do is based on the collections of small trials – if we did big trials we would get a few surprises.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where we marked World Refugee Day.

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