🦠 COVID-19 | Science in the U.K. (Uncertainty Kingdom)

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: 4,335,821 (+84,959cumulative cases 

Active cases:  2,460,619 (+21,936) (this is the number of currently infected patients)

Total Deaths:  292,301  (+5,315)

Serious/Critical Cases: 46,358 (-598)

Recovered:   1,582,901 (+57,708)

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) (Rhode Island from ‘Elevated’ to ‘Moderate’; and Vermont from ‘Moderate’ to ‘Reduce’)

First an article to celebrate nurses: “On International Nurses Day, coronavirus means nurses are finally being noticed for their difficult work”.

An important edition at a momentous crossroad for a number of countries fighting this pandemic. Today, we report on the US Senate’s hearing on the coronavirus response (one video, one image and one article) and also on the press conference and report release of the Independent SAGE group set up by Sir David King (the press conference video plus the report). These two events appear to pit scientists against politicians, when they should actually be in conversations for the benefit of the public understanding the radical uncertainty we continue to face. Marc Lipsicht writes a very timely article on (“Good Science is Good Science”) also included below.

Vox has a very good article highlighting the 11 key questions we still do not have definite answers for. And while we live in this Uncertainty Kingdom, we also benefit from successful references such as South Korea and Taiwan on which we share informative articles on policy and leadership respectively. We can take action with imperfect data and succeed. Data and science will continue to get better, and we should start by providing better mortality data as argued in today’s Twitter thread of the day.

On a more positive note, India had its first decline year-on-year on CO2 emissions partly due to the pandemic. Let us hope that this will not be temporary.


🏛 Video of the day: Undoubtedly the exchange between Senator Rand Paul and Anthony Fauci at the Senate’s hearing today. Who understands humility better? (Link)

🇰🇷 vs 🇺🇸 Image of the day: This is a slide shown by Virginia Democrat Senator Tim Kaine during the Senate’s hearing on the U.S. coronavirus response.

Let’s learn the lessons from those who are doing this right” (Excerpt video - MUST WATCH)

😰 Thread of the day: Dying from the pandemic and dying from the virus. A thread by Tom Frieden (CEO Resolve To Save Lives and former CDC director) (Link)

Frieden’s thread comments on a newly released report from the CDC “Preliminary Estimate of Excess Mortality During the COVID-19 Outbreak — New York City, March 11–May 2, 2020”:

According to the CDC report there has been 5,293 excess deaths “not confirmed or probable COVID19 deaths”. Some of these are indirectly caused by the pandemic and not directly by the virus:

The human impact of the virus is a tragedy well beyond the numbers (official or not), but accounting for deaths properly is the least we can do for the lost ones and to better protect future lives.

🇺🇸 Lev Facher writes “6 takeaways from the Senate’s surreal virtual hearing on the U.S. coronavirus response” for STAT news. There are two key passages in Facher article:

Fauci on vaccine expectations:

“Alexander asked Fauci if students at the University of Tennessee could expect that, by fall, they could return to class having received a vaccine that would make them immune to Covid-19.

Fauci’s reply was direct: It’s not happening.”

Fauci on re-opening prematurely without a contact tracing-testing capacity to deal with ‘spikes’:

“If that occurs, there is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control, which in fact, paradoxically, will set you back,” Fauci said. Moving too quickly, he added, could lead to “suffering and death that could be avoided — but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery, because you’d almost turn the clock back, rather than going forward.”

A great summary of today’s hearing. (Link)

🦠 German Lopez writes “11 questions about the coronavirus we still can’t answer” for VOX. The 11 questions are:

1) How many people have been infected?
2) Can the US really scale up coronavirus testing and tracing?
3) What forms of social distancing work best?
4) Can children widely spread the coronavirus?
5) Why have some places avoided big coronavirus outbreaks?
6) What effect will the weather have?
7) Can we reopen parks and beaches?
8) Do we develop lasting immunity to the coronavirus?
9) Can the world really push out a vaccine in 12 to 18 months?
10) Will we get other medical treatments for Covid-19?
11) Do we need all these ventilators?

If you missed the previous 68 editions of the Corona Daily, Lopez’ article definitely a gem. (Link)

🇰🇷 Mark Zastrow writes “How South Korea prevented a coronavirus disaster—and why the battle isn’t over” for National Geographic. “Testing booth”, “Big data” and “social distancing” have made South Korea a potential model for the rest of the world. The lessons learned from MERS, and the legal and physical infrastructure put in place to face a potential pandemic had created a level of readiness and public support which cannot be improvised and has served the country well:

“While people in other countries may consider Korea’s data collection a violation of patient privacy, the measures have broad support from the South Korean public.”

It is easier to get public support, when measures are planned and debated rather than rushed and imposed as is presently the case in the ‘West’. App-based contact tracing is a vivid example. (Link)

🔬 Marc Lipsitch “Good Science Is Good Science” in the Boston Review. This is a great article on science at a time when science is allegedly ‘followed’, but is also to its own detriment and that of the public instrumentalised and misunderstood.

The Corona Daily had focused on this topic in one of its recent edition (“Science at Work”) and also previously shared the excellent article from Jana Bacevic (“Science in inaction – The shifting priorities of the UK government’s response to COVID-19 highlights the need for publicly accountable expert advice.”).

Lipsitch starts off by quoting 1960 Nobel Laureate Peter Medawhar:

One of the many treasures of his Advice to a Young Scientist (1979) is a passage in his chapter on “Aspects of Scientific Life and Manners” where he discusses “techniques used in the hope of enlarging one’s reputation as a scientist or diminishing the reputation of others by nonscientific means.”

One such “trick,” Medawar writes, “is to affect the possession of a mind so finely critical that no evidence is ever quite good enough (‘I am not very happy about. . . .’; ‘I must say I am not at all convinced by. . . .’).” After all, as he writes in a different passage, “no hypothesis in science and no scientific theory ever achieves . . . a degree of certainty beyond the reach of criticism or the possibility of modification.”

This is very relevant to the COVID-19 crisis where science is learning whilst decisions need to be taken and lives are being lost.

“What does all this mean for the COVID-19 crisis? Scientists of all stripes should work together to improve public health, and none should mistake a professional tendency or a specialist’s rule of thumb for an unshakable epistemological principle. All should support rigorous evidence gathering, especially for the costliest and most disruptive interventions. And insofar as scientists identify with a philosophical school that predisposes them to write off certain forms of evidence entirely, they should, in short, get over it. Instead we should use every possible source of insight at our disposal to gain knowledge and inform decisions, which are always made under uncertainty—rarely more so than at present.”

An important read to foster a healthier interaction between science, the public and policymakers as well as with other non scientific disciplines. (Link)

🌱 Lauri Myllyvirta and Sunil Dahiya write “Analysis: India’s CO2 emissions fall for first time in four decades amid coronavirus” for Carbon Brief. A bit of good news in the midst of the pandemic. The authors hope that this will not be a temporary occurence but the beginning of a renewal in India’s drive for cleaner energies and ‘blue-sky’ thinking. (Link)

🇹🇼 Javier C. Hernández and Chris Horton “Taiwan’s Weapon Against Coronavirus: An Epidemiologist as Vice President” in the New York Times.

Taiwan’s success thus far in containing COVID-19 is written in its numbers:

“It has so far reported about 400 confirmed cases and six deaths, far fewer than many countries.”

A great portrait of Taiwan’s current Vice President who is also a Johns Hopkins-trained epidemiologist and an expert in viruses. Science, policy makers and the public when all three are in conversations. In countries like Taiwan and Germany where leaders are also trained scientists (Angela Merkel is a physicist), this conversation has been facilitated and the response has been a success. (Link)

🎬 Long videos:

🦠 “Independent SAGE May 12 press conference” (Link and full report) (59 min 48 sec)

“This was a press conference answering issues raised in the Independent SAGE's 'Recommendations for government based on an open and transparent examination of the scientific evidence'”

📰 “Infodemic: Coronavirus and the fake news pandemic” a Nature video (6 min 10 sec)

“As the coronavirus spreads, so does an infodemic of misinformation. Researchers across the world are attempting to understand the viral power of fake news, collecting data and building models that could suggest methods for countering its spread. This film explores what makes misinformation so potent, the impact it can have on the spread of disease, and how it might be stopped.”

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

Free COVID-19 curated feeds

📊 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 John 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)

  7. 🇩🇪 The COVID19 dashboard for Germany is one of the best around. (Link)

  8. 🌎Data and chart regularly updated by the  Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. It maps the effective reproduction number (also known as R0) of COVID19. You want to get it below 1 as fast as possible to contain an epidemic. (Link to see charts and more data about your country)