6 – 12 August

A snapshot of media coverage on COVID-19

Beate Kampmann

(11/08) Beate stresses that without safety and efficacy trials, Russia’s approval of a COVID-19 vaccine is “scientifically unsound” on LBC. Beate said: “The announcement appears to be driven by politics rather than science. Having a vaccine tested in the early phases on a total of 38 volunteers, not randomised or placebo-controlled, that is not the international standard to get a vaccine.”

(10/08) Beate tells Newsweek why investment into several COVID-19 vaccine candidates will be crucial. Beate said: “We’ll need more than one vaccine to come through to satisfy world demand because not all of them are going to be equally effective & scalable.”

David Heymann

(10/08) David tells BBC News that a “lack of political leadership” has allowed COVID-19 to flourish in many countries. David said: “A lack of political leadership has hampered countries where public health leaders and political leaders have difficulty speaking together.”

(09/08) David discusses the likelihood of a second COVID-19 wave in The Guardian. David said: “There won’t be a second wave in my view, though there will be resurgences in places not practising good preventative measures.”

(08/08) David comments on the rise in the UK’s reproduction number on BBC News. David said: “What an increase in the reproductive number says is that people are not taking the messages to heart. They must know how to protect themselves and protect others, and they must practice that if this pandemic is to be kept under a reproductive number of one.”

(08/08) David highlights the need for vigilance amid a rise in COVID-19 cases across Europe, in Newsweek. David said: People are taking risks and people need to understand how to protect themselves from being infected and infecting others.”

(07/08) David tells BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (from 2:14:06) that the only way that travel restrictions are going to be eased in the long term is when there’s an equal risk of the virus across countries. David said: “I expect when countries all reach the same level of transmission these travel difficulties will stop. It’s very important right now that people understand how they can contribute to this by protecting themselves and protecting others.”

Sally Bloomfield

(08/08) Sally cautions that there is not enough evidence to prove that the weather worsens the spread of COVID-19, in the Daily Mail. Sally said: “It is impossible to unpick the multiple reasons why the difference between hot and cold countries might have occurred.”

(06/08) Sally discusses whether masks should be worn outdoors as well as indoors on BBC Radio 4 (from 38:00). Sally said: “I think the word enclosed spaces is a very good way of looking at it because it’s all about the closer you get to other people where being able to socially distance becomes more and more unpredictable – outdoor spaces such as standing on the platform of a railway station or a bus stop.”

John Edmunds

(08/08) John explains why there may be a mis-match in recent trends – COVID-19 cases rising as hospital admissions fall – in the Daily Mail. John said: “Hospital admissions lag behind cases by another week or more. Deaths lag by two or three weeks at least, or even longer.”

(07/08) John tells The Guardian that efforts to identify the source of a COVID-19 outbreak is hindered by weaknesses in current tracing systems in the UK. John said: “We don’t currently do backward contact tracing on each case, so we don’t routinely know where each case picked up their infection … This obviously hinders evidence-based decision-making about how best to organise local restrictions when there is a community flare-up.”

James Logan

(11/08) James tells BBC Radio 2 (from 1:42:04) that bio-detection dogs could revolutionise COVID-19 diagnosis without subjecting patients to “invasive and slow tests”. James said: “With dogs, we could screen up to 250 people per hour.”

(10/09) James tell WIRED that he is hoping the bio-detection dog trial will have an impact beyond just the UK. James said: “A big part of what we will do is establish a method and some sort of level of certification so that we can ensure that other organisations that are doing this, are doing it to the right standards. That’s very important from a scientific point of view in terms of accuracy, but also from the animal welfare point of view.”

(08/08) James explains why dogs are being trained to detect COVID-19 on BBC Radio 5 Live (from 52:06). James said: “They have an amazing sense of smell and they’re also able to learn – so if you combine the two, they can learn a smell. One thing we know is that if you have a disease, your body odour changes and we’ve shown this before with malaria infections.”

(06/08) In The Telegraph (£), James calls for volunteers in England who have mild COVID-19 symptoms and are due a test to provide odour samples for a bio-detection dog trial. James said: “If successful, this trial could revolutionise how we diagnose the virus. Rapid screening of high numbers of people, even if asymptomatic, will help return our lives back to some sort of normality.”

Other LSHTM experts

(10/08) Joy Lawn describes the COVID-19 pandemic as being “catastrophic” for maternal health services in Nepal, in The Telegraph (£). Joy said: “This is hard core, proper data which shows that in these settings there has been half the number of births in hospitals than before the pandemic. Having just half of births taking place in health facilities is really catastrophic.”

(08/08) Heidi Larson discusses reasons for COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy on LBC. Heidi said: “Some people are in a ‘wait and see mode’ – they want to know it’s safe, it works and what the threat of the virus is … Public opinion about this is highly volatile. Our research found that at the height of fatalities, the willingness to take a vaccine was much higher than it is now.”

(08/08) In the Daily Mail, Peter Smith cautions whether a COVID-19 human challenge trial will reveal enough about the effectiveness of a potential vaccine on over-65s. Peter said: “Using healthy 20-year-olds would leave gaps in understanding the effect on older age groups. We can look at the response in the young adults who take part in a challenge trial but that wouldn’t prove it’s going to have the same level of protection in older people.

(08/08) Jimmy Whitworth tells The Independent that wearing face masks is largely the benefit for others, not the wearer. Jimmy said: “They’re more beneficial if you have a virus and don’t want to pass it on than to prevent catching anything.”

(07/08) Sebastian Funk discusses the role of children in COVID-19 transmission in The Guardian. Sebastian said: “Kids don’t get very ill if and when they get infected. What we don’t know is whether they also have a lower chance of getting infected and whether they are also not as good at transmitting the virus as others.”

(07/08) Adam Kucharski urges the importance of sticking to a ‘transmission budget’ when it comes to COVID-19 in the Evening Standard. Adam said: “If we’re frugal with our interactions, we can help keep transmission down, and help avoid tighter measures … If we go “overbudget” and take too many risks too often, the price will likely be a rise in cases.”

(07/08) Martin McKee speaks to TIME about why COVID-19 cases could be on the rise across Europe. Martin said: “Many countries that are now opening up are facing a resurgence in cases—in particular, those that have opened up before they’ve got the rates of infection down to very low levels.”

(06/08) In The Telegraph (£), Chris Bonell comments on recent figures for the NHS test and trace system, amid a fall in the number of contacts reached in a week. Chris said: “The figures for England are disappointing. The system has been set up rapidly and that is an achievement. But rates of testing and tracing need to increase to avert a second wave.”

(06/08) Michelle Lokot tells Al Jazeera (from 13:36) that urgent changes must be made to how sexual health services are delivered to displaced women during COVID-19. Michelle said: “Access to family planning for refugees was already a challenge before the pandemic. Strict lockdowns and disrupted services have only made it harder … During this period, more than ever, family planning needs to be recognised as vital to women’s health and wellbeing.”

Further LSHTM coverage

(10/08) Tom Shakespeare highlights issues that need to be considered in disability studies on CBC. Tom said: “In the disability field, the notion of ‘cure’ is controversial because many people born with conditions say that they’re happy the way they are and they don’t want interventions that change them because when you’re born with a condition, it becomes a part of your identity.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where we’re asking volunteers in England to provide odour samples for our COVID-19 dog detection trial.

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