2 – 9 September

A snapshot of media coverage on COVID-19

Beate Kampmann

(09/09) Beate tells The Telegraph (£) that it is too early to say whether AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trial is “doomed”, amid their decision to pause the trial after a suspected adverse reaction in a participant. Beate said: “It’s always a concern if someone in the trial develops a serious adverse reaction… but if we had five or six cases I would be much more alarmed.”

(07/09) Beate discusses the ‘COVAX’ global vaccine allocation plan on BBC News. Beate said: “COVAX is an initiative that has been set up to look into the equity of access of the COVID vaccines … We cannot solve the pandemic by just one country going it alone. We need to all play a part to get vaccines to all people who need them.”

(06/09) Beate highlights the need for comprehensive clinical trials to ensure the safety and efficacy of vaccines in The Telegraph (£), amid reports that a vaccine could be ready within weeks. Beate said: “This timeline is neither realistic, nor is it sensible to put this kind of pressure on the analysis of important trials … It is extremely unwise to proceed with licensing any vaccine without a proven track record for safety and efficacy, in any country.”

James Logan

(09/09) After receiving a royal visit from HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, James tells ITV News that dogs could potentially be used as a “powerful diagnostic tool” for COVID-19. James said: “Hundreds of years ago people would diagnose others by smelling them. So, it’s a well known fact that infections change the way we smell and it’s very likely that the same happens with COVID-19. The good thing about dogs is that they are incredibly good at smelling and learning smells.”

(08/09) James speaks to BBC Spotlight about the potential for dogs to detect COVID-19 in a new trial. James said: “They can do it because they have different noses to ours. They are much more sensitive than ours and they can also learn. So they can learn to associate the smell of something with a reward.”

(02/08) James speaks to BBC Health Check about the COVID-19 detection dog trial. James said: “We’ve got good reason to believe there might be odour there, from other respiratory diseases you find changes in body odour, so there is no reason to believe COVID-19 would be any different.”

Sally Bloomfield

(09/09) Sally discusses the chances of a COVID-19 vaccine being rolled out nationally by December in the Huffington Post. Sally said: “It will take many, many months to produce enough vaccine to produce what we call ‘herd immunity’. There might be enough for those at highest risks – healthcare workers and people in extremely vulnerable groups – but to produce population herd immunity by Christmas, from what I’ve heard, is not a possibility.”

(09/09) Sally highlights the importance of maintaining good hand and surface hygiene in the Huffington Post. Sally said: “There is a risk of transferring the virus via hands or surfaces. If any one in the group is infected, a) they will be expelling droplets which will settle on to surfaces and b) they will likely be touching their mouth or nose and have the virus on their hands. Avoiding transmission via their hands and contact surfaces is key.”

Adam Kucharski

(08/09) In Sky News, Adam suggests that it could  be just a few weeks until the UK sees an increase in older people being admitted to hospital after the spike in young people testing positive. Adam said: “We’ve seen lots of changes in behaviours recently, more people are gathering now and in younger groups especially, more people are happy to gather.”

(04/08) Adam discusses with Science the importance of targeting clusters of cases after recent research suggests ‘backward contact tracing’ could prevent twice as many infections. Adam said: “Looking backwards can actually give you a disproportionate benefit in terms of identifying infections” 

Martin McKee

(08/09) Martin tells The Telegraph (£) that the COVID-19 situation in France and Spain should make the UK brace for a possible rise in hospital admissions. Martin said: “Once the R-value goes up and numbers go up it’s very easy for the virus to get out of control.”

(07/09) Martin speaks to The Guardian amid the UK reporting its highest increase of new daily COVID-19 cases since May. Martin said: “This virus can spread rapidly, exploiting any opportunity we give it – and we are giving it many by giving up on things that have worked so far.”

Stephen Evans

(09/09) Stephen tells Euronews that the suspension of AstaZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trial shows how closely the process is being monitored. Stephen said: “In terms of short-cutting and dropping the standards, this will not be happening. The fact that this trial paused in the way that it has after a single case of an illness illustrates that they are not attempting to shortcut on bringing the vaccine to market.”

(09/09) In Reuters, Stephen comments on AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 trial pause, after an unexplained illness in a participant. Stephen said: “It is premature to speculate on whether the vaccine caused the adverse event, and even if it eventually is concluded that it is possible the vaccine was the cause, there may be other factors involved and it would not necessarily mean the vaccine could not be used at all.”

(02/08) Stephen is quoted in NewScientist about steroid drugs that reduce inflammation, potentially increasing survival in severe COVID-19 cases. Stephen said: “The landmark study compared the outcomes of those who had received one of three corticosteroid drugs – dexamethasone, hydrocortisone or methylprednisolone – with those who received standard care or a placebo…The evidence for benefit is strongest for dexamethasone.”

Other LSHTM experts

(09/09) Rachel Lowe outlines how colder temperatures could affect the survival of COVID-19 in winter, in the New Scientist (£). Rachel said: “Some leaders assumed that this would go away in hot weather. That would have led to complacency.”

(07/09) John Edmunds tells ITV News about the “risky period” we are in as schools reopen and the weather changes. John said: “I don’t think we’ve hit the sweet spot where we’re able to control the epidemic and allow the economy to return to some sort of normality.”

(07/09) Peter Piot is quoted in the Wall Street Journal about the disease severity of COVID-19. Peter said: This virus is really diabolical … It behaves unlike any other virus.”

(04/08) Brendan Wren speaks to iNews about the COVID-19 vaccine developed and tested in Russia that generated neutralizing antibodies in dozens of study subjects. Brendan said: “The report is a case of ‘so far so good’, but immunological responses may not necessarily evoke protection and further investigation is needed on the effectiveness of this vaccine for prevention of COVID-19.” Brendan was also quoted in CNN.

(04/08) Chris Bonell speaks to The Mirror about NHS Test and Trace reaching fewer than half of close contacts. Chris said: “The rate of contacts being reached has actually gone down. The overall 45.3% figure is nowhere near the 80% level of coverage that SAGE previously suggested as a target or the 68% figure that our model suggested was needed to prevent a second wave.”

(03/08) Research by Graham Medley and John Edmunds on coronavirus outbreaks spreading further among older children compared to those in primary school is cited in The Times. They found on average, primary schools were connected to 16 other schools but secondaries to 65.

(03/08) Tim Rhodes discusses with Times Higher Education how COVID-19 could change our approach to research. Tim said: “The idea that certainties can be progressed towards in a linear fashion over time by making science more accurate & precise is more obviously not the case.”

(03/08) Pauline Paterson speaks to BBC Newsnight (from 31:56) about challenges parents face in accessing routine vaccination services for their children. Pauline said: “A quarter of parents that were surveyed and interviewed had challenges either with booking their appointment or getting their child vaccinated.”

(03/08) Julian Peto explains to Channel 4 News the need for constant widespread testing of the whole population and the government’s announcement to support trials for rapid COVID-19 tests. Julian said: “It’s a big step in the right direction. They haven’t yet committed to the resources or given a timescale for testing the whole population regularly but this announcement is very welcome.”

(03/08) Kazuki Shimizu speaks to Reuters about the ruling party in Japan prioritising reviving the recession-hit economy over its pledge to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Kazuki said: “The government seriously needs to review previous mistakes in health communication. A health emergency must not be managed by the wishful thinking.”

(02/08) Kristine Belesova, David Heymann and Andy Haines publish an analysis article in the BMJ about integrating climate action for health into COVID-19 recovery plans. They said: “While the COVID-19 pandemic is a grave human tragedy, it can be used as an opportunity to implement sustainable economic recovery policies that safeguard the health of the current and future generations including by supporting rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

(02/08) Annelies Wilder-Smith speaks to Washington Post about the failure to enforce quarantine on travellers returning from coronavirus ‘hotspots’. Annelies disagreed with Priti Patel’s claim saying: “Of course 99.9 percent are not compliant.”

Further LSHTM coverage

(08/09) In the Daily Mail, Nicholas Berger discusses new research that analysed the drink purchases of more than 9,000 British households to see if there was a connection with food choices. Nicholas said: “We found that households at risk of obesity, who purchase high volumes of sugary or diet drinks, also have higher purchases of sweet snacks.”

(08/09) David Mabey is quoted in the Daily Mail amid Mongolia reporting its third case of bubonic plague. David said: “The disease is transmitted from rodents to human by flea bites. There were a number of cases recently in Madagascar where it was suspected there might have been human to human transmission due to so called pneumonic plague, when the infection spreads via the blood stream to the lungs, but this was never proven.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from Twitter, where we announced the launch of our new free online course with ARCTEC.

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