🦠 COVID-19 | Has the 'new normal' arrived?

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:

Cumulative case: 5,698,650 (+116,280cumulative cases 

Active cases:  2,902,371 (+28,607) (this is the number of currently infected patients)

Total Deaths:  352,476 (+4,913)

Serious/Critical Cases: 53,125 (-42)

Recovered:  2,443,803 (+82,762)

Source: Worldometers

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

Showing a chart from the FT today highlighting the worrying situation in Brazil, Mexico, India and Russia. Also the FT comparative charts now allow up to 6 countries (NEW❗️)

2) U.S. states reopening risk map: this analysis includes current estimated R (reproduction number) for each state (Link) (NEW❗️4th indicator added)

3) Rt estimate per country (NEW❗️). This is a new resource link in the data section from a team which has led accuracy in modelling fatalities in the US for the past few weeks. (Link)


🇺🇸❗️ Tweet of the day: Is the US doing better? by Larry Lessig


Nine articles today and a podcast on re-designing the workspace post-pandemic.

I have broken down the articles in three sections today for ease of reference: Immunity and children, Re-opening, and the Politics of COVID-19.

Whilst the US now has recorded over 100,000 deaths, the U.K. is still embroiled in the Cummings controversy and Latin American is a mounting worry, most state and countries are gradually re-opening. Nobody is yet making predictions about whether we will see a second spike before a second wave in the fall, but everybody is quick to report any outbreaks whether in South Korea, Germany or the US.

Larry Lessig’s tweet directs us to an elegant representation of the evolution of the transmission rate in the US and the increased number of Americans living in states with a R above 1 should be a concern. As the resulting positive tests or hospitalisation of patients enter official statistics this week, we will be able to better assess whether we are firmly past the first wave.

The data on immunity continues to be encouraging as reported by a French study. An alarming initial analysis on infectiousness of children is now being questioned. On the testing side, new CRISPR and saliva based at-home test are potentially entering the market. They will considerably help our ability to contain any future wave at a reasonable cost.

Whilst France is debating in its Parliament today its contact-tracing app, the Corona Daily shares two articles on this topic: a general review of 50 contact tracing apps and a specific case study of the Israeli implementation.

And we are all asking ourselves: Has the ‘new normal’ arrived?


NEW❗️I have open-sourced the articles feeds I curate the Corona Daily from and made them freely available below. The feeds included are listed here.

Free COVID-19 curated feeds


Immunity and children:

🦠 Samira Fafi-Kremer et al. published the pre-print “Serologic responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection among hospital staff with mild disease in eastern France” on MedXriv. This is a positive pre-print (not peer-review) on the antibody response (also know as humoral immunity) of hospital workers having been infected with SARS-CoV-2. 98% of the study group of 162 hospital staff developed antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 after 13 days and the neutralising properties of these antibodies increased over time. Expect more of these studies and peer-reviewed ones as well. Let us hope they confirm the study findings. (Link)

🧒 Kevin McConway (The Open University) and David Spiegelhalter (University of Cambridge) write “Is SARS-CoV-2 viral load lower in young children than adults? Jones et al provide evidence that it is (in spite of their claims to the contrary)” on Medium. The Corona Daily had published the original analysis from Jones et al. in a previous edition (“An analysis of SARS-CoV-2 viral load by patient age”). This is in effect a peer-review of the original analysis with a strong call to action:

“We suggest the pre-print should be withdrawn from the website, and the inappropriate analysis acknowledged.”

Beyond the controversy, it shows the benefit of openness and transparency in quickly challenging or affirming findings, which can then be applied or not in policy decisions.

It should also be a cautionary tale on using pre-prints (not peer reviewed) finding as a cornerstone of a policy. (Link)

On re-opening:

🇰🇷 David Cox writes “The way South Korea crushed its second wave is a warning to us all” for WIRED. Cox writes about the recent outbreak in Seoul ‘gay district’ and how it was controlled, but more generally outlines how South Korea was well prepared and continues to evolve and better its policy as it re-opens school. It has learned from the 2015 MERS outbreak and actively prepared itself then for the next one.

The culture is said to be generally more obedient, but maybe digital tracing acceptance is due to careful communication and debate on the necessary digital surveillance years before the current crisis. This preparedness has borne its fruit.

Liberal democracies might be too conveniently single out “culture” as allowing countries like South Korea to use widespread surveillance, and lamenting civil liberties and pricacy considerations blocking its use in their jurisdiction. They fail to realise the distrust they have themselves seeded in population by normalising surveillance since 9/11 and having failed to protect their citizens from data hungry Big Tech platforms. They are now finding out the cost of their failure, but are regrettably unwilling to draw the conclusion and take the necessary steps to re-engage and regain the public trust.

They should be more open, honest and transparent about digital disease surveillance. (Link)

🇪🇺 Bojan Pancevski writes“New Clusters of Infections Complicate European Efforts to Reopen Economies” for the Wall Street Journal. Outbreaks in Germany (COVID-19 spreading amongst churchgoers or from a restaurant goer to shipyard workers ), and the Netherlands (in a slaughterhouse) have heighten awareness of both politicians and populations of the risk of re-opening. Some leaders are quick to point out that outbreaks are a consequence of not following rules adequately, reminiscent of the U.K. “Stay alert” slogan.

Any successful reopening will need cooperation and clear communication between authorities and the public. (Link)

🧪 Piyush k. Jain (Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering) writes “Rapid home-based coronavirus tests are coming together in research labs — we’re working on analyzing spit using advanced CRISPR gene editing techniques” for The Conversation. At-home kits which give results quickly and accurately will be a game changer in containing the epidemic. A lot of commentators have used the metaphor that what is needed is a coronavirus test as easy to use at home as a pregnancy test. Jain does a review of current tests and testing technologies (including the ones which have already been approved for at-home testing) and does an in-depth review of the one he and his team are hoping to get regulatory approval for using saliva and CRISPR. They are hoping to bring the cost of the kit to between $1 to $2 making it affordable in developing countries. (Link)

The politics of COVID-19:

🇨🇳 Mark Leonard writes “The End of Europe’s Chinese Dream” for Project Syndicate. A good article on Europe re-assessing its relationship with China in light of the country’s behaviour in the pandemic and the risk assessment of the supply chain dependencies triggered by COVID-19. Take for example the under-reported issue of medical equipment:

Consider one telling episode from the pandemic. Early this year, as the coronavirus was raging through Wuhan, EU member states shipped nearly 60 tons of medical equipment to China. Much of this came from national strategic stockpiles, and it was sent discreetly, at China’s behest. By contrast, when the pandemic arrived in Europe, the Chinese government made a big show of offering “aid” to Europe – much of which actually came with a price tag.

The ‘‘managed disengagement” will not be easy or fast but appears necessary and inevitable. (Link)

🏛 Philip Ball writes “Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance must speak out against Dominic Cummings” for Prospect Magazine. The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and the Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) have not yet spoken publicly about Dominic Cummings’ actions. Ball argues that it is urgent for them to do so to defend the lockdown policy they have helped devise and more broadly their standing, that of science and of the merit of evidence-based policy. (Link)

Privacy:

🚔 Tanusree Sharma and Masooda Bashir write “Use of apps in the COVID-19 response and the loss of privacy protection” in Nature Medicine. This is good review of 50 contact tracing apps which have already been deployed, highlighting some of the privacy and civil liberties worries stemming from their design. Whilst the authors acknowledge that the use of these apps might become inevitable, they urge information privacy and security professionals to ask the right questions for the benefit of the public.

In most of the counties I follow, I have witnessed these professional speak up and raise their concerns. I have regrettably not seen an open and transparent debate between the governments developing these apps and these professionals leading to improvements. It is regrettable. (Link)

🚔 There is an article about “Mass-surveillance technologies to fight coronavirus spread: the case of Israel” also written in Nature Medicine. Here the authors look at the specific use case off Israel which was one of the first country to launch a tracing app. The more interesting part of the article is the outline by the authors of their suggested “Principles for maintaining privacy and civil liberties with cellphone tracking”. A worthwhile read. (Link)


Podcasts:

🎙 “Side Effects: Covid-19 / Ep28: Kursty Groves, Workplace Strategist, talks returning to work in the new normal.” for the TEN podcast series. Matt Pattison, Founder and CEO of TEN:

“Today, I talk to Kursty Groves founder of ShapeWorkLife. Kursty is a specialist in the design of workplaces, helping organisations understand how to use their physical environment to boost performance, enhance culture and support innovation. During the Covid19 pandemic she has come into increased demand with organisations wanting to know how to design safe and creative return to work strategies.”

(Link)


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

  1. 🦠  “Science Forum: SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) by the numbers” (Link)

    “The COVID-19 pandemic is a harsh reminder of the fact that, whether in a single human host or a wave of infection across continents, viral dynamics is often a story about the numbers. In this article we provide a one-stop, curated graphical source for the key numbers (based mostly on the peer-reviewed literature) about the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is responsible for the pandemic. The discussion is framed around two broad themes: i) the biology of the virus itself; ii) the characteristics of the infection of a single human host.”

  2. 🇺🇸🌎 NEW❗️This model has led accuracy for several weeks in the US. It also does projection for Europe and Rest of the World. (Link)

  3. 🇺🇸  “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)

  4. 🌎 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)

  5. 🇺🇸  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 populatio (Link)

  6. 💊 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)

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

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

  9. 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)

  10. 🌎 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)