16 – 22 July

A snapshot of media coverage on COVID-19

Peter Piot

(21/07) Peter suggests in The Telegraph (£) that the custom of shaking hands should be abandoned to curb the spread of COVID-19. Peter said: “Many of the cultural behaviours in other countries may have been determined by the need to avoid epidemics, that might have been the origin of not shaking hands. We’re talking about a long-term view.”

(21/07) Peter discusses the likelihood of a second COVID-19 wave in the winter, in The Guardian. Peter said: “There is no doubt there will be further outbreaks. Whether it will be a second wave, a tsunami or not, depends on how well we are doing.”

Heidi Larson

(22/07) Heidi tells Nature that in order to preserve the societal benefits of vaccination, it is essential to build public trust. Heidi said: “Today, we are in the paradoxical situation of having highly effective vaccines, but doubting publics.”

(21/07) Heidi explains barriers to vaccine uptake during the pandemic on BBC Radio Scotland (from 13:07). Heidi said: “The latest data from the UK is that about 14 per cent of people say it’s not a vaccine they would take. But it all depends on when you ask them that question and what the state of their perceived risk is because in late-March the numbers were more around 5 per cent. That’s when we were seeing much higher daily numbers of COVID fatalities.”

Beate Kampmann

(21/07) Beate outlines the next stages in the Oxford vaccine trial on LBC. Beate said: “The next development is to give the vaccine to many more people. Also people such as the elderly for example, healthcare workers and people who might be particularly vulnerable to see if the vaccine induces a similar immune response. We need to see that people who got the vaccine won’t get coronavirus, which means the trials have to include other countries where there is still a lot of infection.”

(21/07) Beate tells Sky News that she is “cautiously optimistic” about the latest Oxford vaccine trial results. Beate said: “The immune response that was hoped for has been shown. Whether that will give us an effective vaccine, nobody can tell.”

(16/07) Beate discusses the latest COVID-19 vaccine developments on Sky News. Beate said: “There can be no doubt that an enormous amount of progress has been made in a very short time, and this really represents an unprecedented collaborative effort between academia, industry, funders and regulators. But to date, we have no vaccine that is proven to be safe and effective against COVID-19.”

Ajay Aggarwal

(21/07) Ajay explains the impact of delayed cancer diagnoses during the COVID-19 pandemic on BBC Radio 5 Live (from 3:36:30). Ajay said: “We’ve had such a shortfall of diagnoses four, five months in that people are invariably going to present with later stage disease.”

(20/07) Ajay discusses new research findings that predict COVID-19 could cause up to 3,500 potentially avoidable cancer deaths in England over the next five years, in The Guardian. Ajay said: “Our findings demonstrate the impact of the national COVID-19 response, which may cut short the lives of thousands of people with cancer in England over the next five years.”

Mark Jit

(19/07) Mark discusses the likelihood of the UK needing to impose a second national lockdown on BBC Radio 5 Live (from 21:22). Mark said: “Whether or not we’re going to need another lockdown will depend on a range of decisions that individuals and governments both in this country and around the world are making. That we can’t predict yet so it is not inevitable but we can’t rule it out for certain, there might be a second wave.”

(16/07) Mark tells Sky News that equitable vaccine distribution is vital to ending COVID-19. Mark said: “Mechanisms should be put in place now to ensure that the vaccine gets to the people who most need it – wherever in the world they’re living … If there are huge epidemics still going on in other parts of the world then we can never let our guard down in the UK. This virus will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere.”

John Edmunds

(18/07) John urges caution on easing lockdown on BBC Radio 4 (from 51:57). John said: “The schools will open in September – they have to. Universities and colleges will go back and again, they have to at some point. Then we will effectively link up households, so transmission or infection in one household can much more easily jump in another household and so on.”

(16/07) John warns that the world may face recurring COVID-19 pandemics for a “very long time”, on Channel 4 News. John said: “It’s likely that any vaccine isn’t going to give full protection for life. Immunity to the other coronaviruses looks to be relatively short-lived, and so it may be that natural immunity will decline over time as well.”

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Stephen Evans

(20/07) Stephen comments on the latest results of the Oxford vaccine trial in CNN. Stephen said: “It does not yet show that the disease is reduced or prevented, and this will not be easy to show until Phase III trials have been completed in settings where the virus is circulating at a high rate and people are getting clinical and severe disease.”

(20/07) Stephen is quoted in The Independent about the preliminary results of a clinical trial suggesting that inhaled interferon could reduce the number of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care. Stephen said: “There are reasons to believe it could well be an effective treatment, but these results, while encouraging, should not be taken to mean that the treatment is so dramatic that everyone should be given it.”

David Heymann

(20/07) David explains why the last mile of polio eradication is crucial to global health in Deutsche Welle. David said: “There is a risk as long as polio is occurring anywhere in the world, it could travel in humans to other sites and be transmitted at those sites.”

(17/07) David discusses the structure of the WHO and it’s response to COVID-19 on BBC Parliament. David said: “As far as whether or not the WHO should have more power to enforce what it says, I think it does quite a good job now in setting norms and standards.”

(16/07) In South China Morning Post, David cautions while vaccines are seen as a way to control the pandemic, they should not be the basis for long-term measures. David said: “We all hope that there will be a vaccine, but it should not stop what we are trying to do today – and what are we trying to do today? Are we trying to suppress the virus and minimise the number of deaths and continue to suppress it indefinitely if there isn’t a vaccine? Or are we trying to let it enter into our society in a way that we can shield the people at greatest risk and if it is destined to become endemic, let it become endemic?”

Brendan Wren

(20/07) Brendan comments on the latest Oxford vaccine trial results on LBC. Brendan said: “The trial wasn’t done on older people over 55 but it was interesting that also reported last week was a study from Japan that also used a very similar technology on older people, and they did find some good responses. So, both papers published today are encouraging news.”

(19/07) On Sky News, Brendan discusses the current global COVID-19 situation on Sky News, following a total of 14 million infections and 600,000 deaths worldwide. Brendan said: “These numbers are likely to be an underestimate. They’re only the reported cases and it’s clear that globally the numbers are still increasing. As a planet, we’re not near the peak in terms of total number of cases.”

(18/07) In the Daily Mail, Brendan discusses the potential combined threats this winter of a flu epidemic and COVID-19. Brendan said: “There is a worry that many people with severe flu, as well as COVID-19 patients, could overwhelm the NHS, but there is also a risk of concurrent infection with flu and COVID-19. It’s too early to know for sure, but having both at the same time could mean a far more severe illness.”

Other LSHTM experts

(22/07) Kathleen O’Reilly discusses the steps needed to achieving COVID-19 ‘elimination’ in New Scientist. Kathleen said: “It’s all about balancing what’s feasible, what resources you have available and what the disadvantages are with putting your resources into one disease.”

(22/07) Rein Houben highlights the importance of understanding the role of asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19, in the New York Times. Rein said: “For control, to actually keep the virus from coming back, we’re going to have to deal with this issue.”

(21/07) Timothy Russell discusses the fatality rate of COVID-19 in the Wall Street Journal (£). Timothy said: “It’s very difficult to measure, but robust studies are finding a clear signal in the noise.”

(21/07) Martin Gorsky outlines the history of public health and it’s vital role during a pandemic such as COVID-19 on BBC Radio 4 (from 02:37). Martin said: “The first big public health act in 1848 was a response to diseases like cholera which were afflicting the rapidly growing industrial towns. They could appoint a medical officer of health, who was a publicly funded officer to take responsibility for the health of a town.”

(20/07) Emilie Karafillakis highlights the importance of building public trust in vaccines amid an environment of “heightened uncertainty” on BBC Radio 4 (from 13:37). Emilie said: “We’re fighting an infodemic at the same time as a pandemic.”

(20/07) In the Financial Times, Francesco Checchi cautions that the pandemic is gaining momentum in Africa. Francesco said: “What we are seeing is just the effect of the delayed timeline. I don’t really see any evidence that we’re seeing a qualitatively different course of the pandemic in Africa.”

(20/07) Richard Coker writes in The Guardian that face masks must become a social norm to have an impact on COVID-19. Richard said: “Getting people to wear masks requires social approval. The challenge for the government will be increasing social approval of mask wearing – and doing it quickly.”

(19/07) In The Conversation, Jessica King and Timothy Powell-Jackson highlight the critical need to address COVID-19 infection control in health facilities in Tanzania. Jessica and Timothy said: “The deficiencies were not necessarily the fault of healthcare workers themselves. Often facilities simply don’t have the necessary supplies (like gloves or handrub) or infrastructure (sinks with running water) for them to practise correct infection control. “

(18/07) Adam Kucharski is quoted in The Telegraph (£) about three concepts that explain how the spread of COVID-19 is accelerated. Adam said: “Three Cs’ warn people to avoid: Closed spaces (with poor ventilation); Crowded places (with many people nearby); and Close-contact settings (such as close conversations). The risk of clusters is particularly high when the ‘Three Cs’ overlap.”

(17/07) Kaja Abbas urges the importance of sustaining routine immunisation during COVID-19, in The Telegraph (£). Kaja said: “Even with our most conservative estimates, the benefits of routine childhood immunisation in Africa are likely to far outweigh the risk of additional Covid-19 transmission that might ensue.”

(16/07) Val Curtis shares experience of cancer and the need for a joined-up health service in light of COVID-19, in The Guardian. Val said: “Now is the time to present the country with a visionary plan for a fully functioning, joined-up health service, free at the point of use, delivered by our committed and dedicated NHS health professionals who have proven during the pandemic what a heroic job they do.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where we featured this week’s #COVIDChampion, Mark jit.

https://twitter.com/LSHTM/status/1283402915982520320

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