🦠 COVID-19 | A warning from South Korea on re-opening

I am a scientist by education, banker at JPMorgan for a few years, then mature PhD student in Chemical Biology at Oxford under the supervision of Christofer Schofield (FRS) and Peter Ratcliffe (Nobel laureate in medicine in 2019). Founder and tech investor focusing on media and education. I care about science, learning and Democracy which are good bedfellows.

📊 Daily Data Brief: (❗️48 hours +/- change)  

Cumulative case: 4,250,862  (+153,802cumulative cases 

Active cases:  2,438,683 (+53,537) (this is the number of currently infected patients)

Total Deaths:  286,986  (+6,842)

Serious/Critical Cases: 46,956 (-742)

Recovered:   1,525,193 (+93,423)

Source: Worldometers

1) Seven-day rolling average of new deaths (updated daily as ECDC releases). Major update with per country graphs now available (Link) (Update❗️) (USUKFranceGermanySweden, Nordic Comparison) (👈NEW❗️)

2) U.S. states reopening risk map (Link


A rich Corona Daily edition today. Boris Johnson’s address yesterday was heavily criticised mainly for its lack of clarity. Apart from a comment from Sir David King on it in his interview on why he set up Independent SAGE, there is no other mention of it.

There is a great article on the four leaders who are responsible for the catastrophic US response in the eyes Rolling Stones magazine. Two videos, one from Mike Ryan (WHO) heavily criticising “herd immunity as strategy” policies and one from Scott Gottlieb hailing the approval of a new fast and cheap antigen test.

Three articles on South Korea about the recent outbreak, the stigmatisation of the LGBTQ community which ensued and the level of surveillance as narrated by an American living in South Korea.

On the vaccine front two great articles on the challenges ahead and reporting on an initiative to foster collaboration and ultimately maximise chances of success. On the disease front, an article on the prevalence of clotting in COVID-19 critically-ill patients for which treatment is sought whilst still being an unexplained symptom.

Finally an article on quarantine fatigue, and how to attempt to live a pleasurable life in the anticipated extended pandemic regime.


NEW❗️I am open-sourcing my curated feeds and making them freely available below.

Free COVID-19 curated feeds


🧪 Video of the day: Scott Gottlieb (former Food and Drug Administration director) comments on a newly FDA approved antigen test which cost $5, has a 85% sensitivity and gives a result within 5 minutes. Manufacturing of this test will ramp up to 1.5 million per week within a few weeks. (Link)


🇺🇸 Article of the day: Tim Dickinson writes “The Four Men Responsible For America’s COVID-19 Test Disaster” in Rolling Stones magazine. (Link)

Dickinson is not kind to the four men who could have shaped a different course to fight the pandemic in the US:

“The government leaders who failed to safeguard the nation are CDC Director Redfield; FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn; Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar; and of course, President Trump. Together, these men had the power to change the direction of this pandemic, to lessen its impact on the economy, and constrain the death toll from COVID-19. Each failed, in a series of errors and mismanagement that grew into a singular catastrophe — or as Jared Kushner described it on Fox & Friends, “a great success story.”

The type of article American media excels in writing. Reads like the draft script of a forthcoming movie.


🚔🇰🇷 Thread of the day: Michael Kim (American in South Korea) details what happens in South Korea, a country which runs the most successful testing-tracing-isolating operation in the world. Civil liberties and privacy activists will not approve.


🇸🇪Tweet of the day: Mike Ryan ( Director of Health Emergencyat the World Health Organisation) commenting on herd immunity as strategy (video excerpt below as well).


💉 Sarah Owermohle writes “Why the U.S. isn't prepared to meet overwhelming demand for a coronavirus vaccine” for Politico. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has put together the “Project Warp Speed” initiative to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine development. It is led by the experienced director of FDA’s vaccine unit, Peter Marks who believes that having a vaccine within 9 months is possible and says:

“What could make that possible is really taking away dead space in the development process and taking risks that one normally would not take.”

Owermohle focuses on the “vial, stopper, cap and packaging” of a potential vaccine and the risk to that part of the manufacturing chain to scale to the level required for a successful global candidate. (Link)

💉 Lawrence Corey et al. publish “A strategic approach to COVID-19 vaccine R&D” in Science. It is a fairly technical paper. Collaboration is key in delivering a vaccine in record time. The authors outline in the paper how the ACTIV (Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines) public-private partnership is contributing at all development phases of a (or several) vaccine(s). ACTIV is spearheaded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and “brings together the strengths of all sectors at this time of global urgency”.

After going through some of the known safety challenge of vaccines, the authors outline why they are hopeful:

“Coronaviruses have a single-stranded RNA genome with a relatively high mutation rate. Although there has been some genetic drift during the evolution of the SARS- CoV-2 epidemic, major alterations in the spike protein are not extensive to date, especially in the regions thought to be important for neutralization; this enables cautious opti- mism that vaccines designed now will be effective against circulating strains 6 to 12 months in the future”

The article also mentions the possibility of running human challenge trials to accelerate the development of a vaccine and the ethical questions around conducting them (14,000 people are reported too have already volunteered for such trials), as well as the collaboration needed to be able to assess and harmonise the protocol to assess the efficacy of vaccine candidates based on different technological platforms (all described in the paper).

The last challenge (addressed partially in the previous article) is the scale up of the manufacturing. Federal and philanthropic funding has already been deployed to start building capacity across the different platforms.

This article gives a comprehensive (albeit technical) overview of all that is involved and needs to be carefully coordinated to have a chance to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine at “warp speed”. ACTIV is a great initiative. (Link)

⚠️ 🇰🇷 Sam Baker writes “South Korea's new outbreak should be a warning” in Axios (Link)

“South Korea — a model for how to handle the coronavirus well — has had to re-tighten some of its commercial restrictions as on Sunday it reported the biggest-single day increase in cases it has seen in over a month with 34 new cases.”

When the US has been averaging 25,000 new cases per day, 34 might not exactly seem like a flare up. It shows however, how a country like South Korea who had reported 0 new cases for 3 days in a row is not immune to a new outbreak and should serve at regions prematurely opening.

🚔🇰🇷 Koh Ewe and Junhyup Kwon write“Reports on South Korea’s Second Wave of Coronavirus Cases Are Further Stigmatising the LGBTQ Community” in Vice.

Privacy and civil liberties activists have been concerned and weary of epidemiological surveillance (particularly when its tech mediated) and have warned the public about its dark side. The ‘super spreader’ at the heart of this new outbreak infected 14 people in gay night clubs in Seoul. The Korean press immediately sensationalised the location of the outbreak stigmatising the LGBTQ community.

When your country is the most successful in epidemiological surveillance, and that the new spike comes from a gay clubs Coming forward = coming out... (Link)

📖 Kai Kupferschmidt writes “U.K. government should not keep scientific advice secret, former chief adviser says” for Science. Kupferschmidt interviews Sir David King, the former chief scientific adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. King is an advocate of more transparency from the SAGE advisory group which advises the UK government and has set up an Independent SAGE with twelve members which livestreams its deliberation on COVID-19.

This is an astute initiative as science and the public are best served when both are in conversation. It is not about “following the science” which is a disservice to both, particularly when the science it allegedly follows is not made public.

In the interview Sir David King comments on Boris Johnson address to the nation yesterday:

“The comments of the prime minister last night were disappointing because of the lack of clarity and the rather mixed messages that were contained. And in our paper, which will be published tomorrow, we will be setting out considerably more detail about the process of coming out of lockdown and setting out a series of recommendations.”

A great interview and initiative which I strongly believe in. (Link)

🔒 Julia Marcus (Professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School) writes “Quarantine Fatigue Is Real” in the Atlantic. Marcus looking at the limits and impossibility of prolonged and total abstinence to contain COVID-19 as well as the mental health cost of such narrow strategy. Instead, and drawing parallel from the HIV epidemic, Marcus sketches a process for living long term with the pandemic in a risk managed and more pleasurable way. (Link)

🦠 Cassandra Willyard write “Coronavirus blood-clot mystery intensifies” for Nature.

“Studies from the Netherlands and France suggest that clots appear in 20% to 30% of critically ill COVID-19 patients.”

Willyard reports on the ongoing drug trials which focus primarily on dosing to tackle a phenomenon which is not yet fully understood. (Link)


🎬 This is the full transcript of CBS’ Face the Nation (Transcript)

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

“Kevin Hassett, White House Economic Adviser
Eric Schmidt, Former CEO and Chairman of Google
Dr. Christopher Murray, Director, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Commissioner
James Ryan, President, University of Virginia”


📊 A picture is worth a thousand words:  Global (🌎) and local (with relevant flag) visualisation and forecasting tool

  1. 🇺🇸 NEW❗️ “Is your community ready to reopen?”: A map of the US (50 states and 2,100+ counties) looking at reopening risks with metrics around 3 criteria: 1. Is COVID in retreat? 2. Are we testing enough? 3. Are our hospitals ready? (Link)

  2. 🌎 The Financial Times (visualisation) has a data tracking page which is in front of the paywall, looking at cases and fatality curves for selective countries and metropolitan areas/region. It is not as extensive as the Madlag link below, where you can see static as well as animated images for a greater number of individual countries. (Link)

  3. 🇺🇸  The Johns Hopkins University resource center was the first one I used back in January they have now made available in their latest iteration a county by county dashboard in the US including information about health capacity, insurance coverage, ethnicity and age breakdown of the population (New York example below) (Link)

  1. 💊 The "Map of Hope" provides a geographical overview of planned, ongoing and completed clinical trials. It is put together with data from WHO Clinical Trials Search Portal by the Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation technology. (Link)

  2. 🌍 MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis started to publish weekly death estimates for countries (Link)

  3. 🇺🇸 The US Center for Disease Control and Surveillance (CDC) publishes “A Weekly Surveillance Summary of U.S. COVID-19 Activity” (Link)

  4. Google has published a new website to “See how your community is moving around differently due to COVID-19”. They have a lot of data to do so… (Link)

  5. 🌎 Country by Country Curves: This is a GitHub made by my friend Francois Lagunas. He has written a script to scrape deaths and number of cases in order to visualise the rate of growth on a logarithmic scale.  Great resource (Link)

  6. 🌎A great resource put together by Ben Kuhn and Yuri Vishnevsky.  At a time when we need solidarity and cooperation, I prefer their subtitle “We need stronger measures, much faster” than their title. It’s a simulator on what case growth looks like depending on your community’s measures. Fantastic resource to stir communities and governments to action (Link)