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:
2,014,000 cumulative cases (+79,875)
Active cases: 1,394,622 (+37,533) (this is the number of currently infected patients)
Total Deaths: 127,592 (+7,155)
Serious/Critical Cases: 51,516 (+376)
Recovered: 491,786 (+35,187)
Death curves (updated daily as ECDC releases). Major update with per country graphs now available (Link)
However inevitable it seemed to be, President Trump’s decision to suspend funding of the World Health Organisation in the middle of the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu in 1918, was still met with broad-based criticism and disbelief.
It is worth looking beyond the announcement and observe in its aftermath the same seeds that gave it life. The responsibility behind its birth is almost as broad as its condemnation and its gestation has been a long one which far preceded this US presidency.
And while each of us in our respective countries, wonder whether we are past the epidemic peak, we should also wonder whether we are past the peak of distrust and the low of democratic accountability around the world, or whether like the epidemic the peak has yet to be reached and there will be successive and maybe higher peaks to come when it comes to distrust and even lover trough when it comes to democratic accountability. And whilst we may have been passive participants in all these peaks, we should question how active we should be in flattening the distrust curve.
It appears impossible on this particular event for both the leader of the US and the leader of the WHO to admit to errors in this pandemic. It appears that both of them are paralysed in admitting to a truth which all of us should be able to objectively see: for the US president that he should have acted earlier and more decisively, and for Dr Tedros that appeasing China was a deadly mistake. Did Dr Tedros have no other choice in engaging with China than to appease them? Quoting again the same passage from Buranyi article in the Guardian over the weekend (“The WHO v coronavirus: why it can't handle the pandemic”), Dr Tedros’ predecessor (Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland) during SARS took a different route:
“Although the WHO had no formal powers to monitor and censure its members, Brundtland wasn’t shy about doing so anyway. In the ensuing months she would accuse China of withholding information, claiming that the outbreak might have been contained “if the WHO had been able to help at an earlier stage” and exhorting the Chinese to “let us come in as quickly as possible!” With remarkable speed, China fell in line and shared its data with the WHO. “After her statements to China, no other countries hesitated,” said Heymann.”
Was the WHO so damaged from its response during H1N1 and Ebola, and is China thirst for hegemony such now that Dr Brundtland’s China strategy during SARS was not opened to Dr Tedros. Would China not have fallen in line, being so careful about its international image?
Beyond these questions, should we not remember that it is health that we are talking about. And that no regime which puts its survival above that of its people and citizen around the world should survive. And that you do not play politics when it comes to lives and should instead let honesty and decency guide you when it comes to health. And would it not follow then, that if a member of the international community does not abide by these values that both its people and the international community should at the very least press him to do so? How can China have a legitimate claim to world leadership when its initial concealment show abject carelessness about life? Have we all become fodder in Xi Jinping quest for hegemony?
And couldn’t we also question the leadership of Dr. Tedros whilst scrutinising Trump’s actions before and during the pandemic? Why do we focus on Trump’s scapegoatism of the WHO and enter his narrative, rather than carve a multi-prong one criticising or at least scrutinising both the WHO and Trump. And could we equally laud Trump for having decided to close the US to China against the WHO recommendation or the non-authoritarian part of China’s response and criticise both leadership of these countries for their failings? It appears that the space for objectivity or nuanced debate (which includes criticism) has disappeared from public and consequently political life.
It appears that we are letting the hashtag and the click-bait drive our media consumption serving the revenue model of the platform that distribute our news. And we are now offended by any media organisation that would dare charge us for information during a pandemic, without seeing that it will ultimately make it difficult for quality journalism to thrive, harden our politics and simplify our narratives to a point where it becomes harmful to Democracy. Look at the title below:
Let’s continue to ask who is responsible, and use this questioning as a commitment to learn and improve.
Video of the day: “‘What Disease Are We Treating?’: Why Coronavirus Is Stumping Many Doctors” a great video produced by the New York Times (Link)
This is a wonderful video of doctors on the front line of the epidemic. It vividly portrays the intensity, stress and courage of all the doctors interviewed, and can only heighten one’s admiration and gratefulness towards all the healthcare workers currently fighting for the lives of their patients.
It also shows how this novel and dangerous virus is putting observation and learning back at the core of these doctors’ everyday job. Whilst stressful, it is also a celebration of humanity and ingenuity at its best away from the increasing national procedure which most of them have to apply in more normal times either because of lack of resources or fear of increased liability.
If only our politicians would show the same humanity in protecting their citizens in the face of the radical uncertainty that COVID19 brought, we could mend our broken politics and feel cared for. Good to see the candour, courage, passion and learning through observation of the doctors in this short video. Thank you!
Tweet of the day: Bill Gates about President Trump halting US funding for the World Health Organisation
🏖Article of the day: Ed Yong writes “Our pandemic summer” for the Atlantic (Link)
Yong is providing his second long read on the pandemic. The first one was already a delight in mapping the way ahead. This new one is a review of what happens since then and what to expect in the future. It fills some of the gap that governments around the world fail to address publicly. Yong sets the scene early on, with a quote from Michael Osterholm, head of CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy) at the University of Minnesota:
“I think people haven’t understood that this isn’t about the next couple of weeks. This is about the next two years.”
Now that the timeline is clarified Yong takes the reader along four important areas of the pandemic now:
I. The Reopening
As the previous long read, a delightful and comprehensive piece of journalism by Yong.
Trump’s WHO funding halt decision:
The Corona Daily wanted to give different perspectives around Trump’s decision. Here is a public feed using Cronycle’s “Top Conservatives on Twitter” and filtered with ‘World Health Organisation’ as a keyword (feed). The article critical of China’s role and the one claiming that the WHO covered up for China were discovered in this feed.
😡 The Guardian does a review on Trump’s decision: “'Crime against humanity': Trump condemned for WHO funding freeze”. While the article finishes with a Hong Kong Democracy activist welcoming the decision, most of the article is about condemnation from various health and diplomatic figures. The most brazen one which also made it to the article title is from Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet medical journal labelling the Trump’s decision as:
“a crime against humanity … Every scientist, every health worker, every citizen must resist and rebel against this appalling betrayal of global solidarity.”
🇨🇳 “Albright: 'China Really Does Bear Responsibility' and We Have to 'Press Them'” video published by Breitbart. While former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright states that she would not have de-funded the WHO, she still condemns China’s early behaviour and its responsibility on the severity of the pandemic:
“I think that China really does bear responsibility for a lot of the problems at the beginning, not having revealed any information, lack of transparency, and that is something that we have to deal with. Because I think that it really did harm the whole situation. … I think we need to figure out how to press them now on a whole series of issues that we need to cooperate on, some on the supply chains, some on the way that we’re going to have to deal internationally with this”
🇹🇼 Kristine Javier writes “Taiwan Leaks Email to WHO, Proves the Organization’s Obvious Chinese Cover-up” for The Patriot Hill. Javier republishes the e-mail released by the Taiwanese Ministry of Health and Welfare of a communication between its CDC and the WHO from 31st December 2019. In it, the Taiwanese CDC expresses concerns and seeks information following reports that “indicate at least seven, atypical, pneumonia cases were reported in WUHAN, CHINA” The letter was not responded to as the WHO does not recognise Taiwan sovereignty. The article goes on to report on Bruce Aylward appearing to hang up and refusing to answer a Hong Kong TV reporter when asked about Taiwan. (Link)
💊 James M. Sanders et al. publishes“Pharmacologic Treatments for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” review in the JAMA network. This is a good (albeit not comprehensive) review of the ongoing therapeutics trials which Sanders et al. deem the most promising against COVID19. It singles out remdesevir for which the Corona Daily reported on a promising survey in a previous edition. (Link)
🦠 Stephen M. Kissler et al. publish “Projecting the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 through the postpandemic period” in Science. This is the scientific paper which Marc Lipsitch turned into an article in the New York Times and which we reported previously. Kissler et al. paper provide a modelling framework leveraging data on other betacoronaviruses, namely OC43 and HKU1, to help policy makers design and manage an initial lockdown exit followed by sequential phases of lockdown-reopening until we find a vaccine. It highlights the importance of building anti-body testing to learn about the characteristics of immunity developed by infected patients (and therefore their susceptibility upon being re-exposed to the virus).
We are back to re-modelling how to manage our way to herd immunity whilst not overwhelming health capacity. The timeline given at the end of the abstract is however nothing like what politicians have publicly talked about:
“Even in the event of apparent elimination, SARS-CoV-2 surveillance should be maintained since a resurgence in contagion could be possible as late as 2024.”
An interesting read if you want to go deeper than Lipsitch’s New York Times article. (Link)
🚔 Vice TV presents: “Snowden Warns Governments Are Using Coronavirus to Build ‘the Architecture of Oppression’”. This is an interview between Shane Smith (Co-founder of Vice) and Edward Snowden. The famed whistleblower starts off by stating that a pandemic was the most predictable event and yet we were not prepared for one. Snowden goes to question whether China authoritarianism is the most effective way to respond to a pandemic and whether Democratic society can mount more effective responses. He is obviously worried about the setting up of a tech and civil apparatus to perform the need epidemiological surveillance and warns:
“As authoritarianism spreads, as emergency laws proliferate, as we sacrifice our rights, we also sacrifice our capability to arrest the slide into a less liberal and less free world. Do you truly believe that when the first wave, this second wave, the 16th wave of the coronavirus is a long-forgotten memory, that these capabilities will not be kept? That these datasets will not be kept? No matter how it is being used, what’ is being built is the architecture of oppression.”
🎬 Videos: “In this video, Human Rights Watch staff discuss key human rights dimensions of the pandemic and make recommendations to governments.”
📊 A picture is worth a thousand words: Global (🌎) and local (with relevant flag) visualisation and forecasting tool
🌍 MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis started to publish weekly death estimates for countries (Link)
🇺🇸 The US Center for Disease Control and Surveillance (CDC) publishes “A Weekly Surveillance Summary of U.S. COVID-19 Activity” (Link)
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)
🌎The Financial Times 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)
🇺🇸/🌍The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research center at the University of Washington (UW). It has put out a simulation for the US (overall and by state) of what is the expected shortfall in health capacity (bed, ICU, ventilators) and when is the expected peak of the epidemic for each state. It has now added countries in the European Economic Area (EEA). A valuable resource. (Link)
🇺🇸Another valuable resource by Unacast ( a data company providing human mobility insights). Their “Social distancing scoreboard looks and compares (State by State and County by County), the change in mobility to prior to COVID19 (Link)
🌎 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)
CityMapper has started to produce City Mobility Index to show how much a City is moving. This is a very good indicator of how well lockdowns are respected around the world: Barcelona (4% of city moving) at one end and St Petersburg at the other end (68% of city moving) for yesterday (Link)
🌎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)
🇩🇪 The COVID19 dashboard for Germany is one of the best around. (Link)
🌎A helpful guide by VOX of the “9 coronavirus pandemic charts everyone should see” (Link)
🌎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)
🌎This is a great COVID19 Dashboard prepared by Andrzej Leszkiewicz. Andrzej has also written an introductory and explanatory blog for it (“Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) fatality rate: WHO and media vs logic and mathematics”). I particularly like the country comparison tab, which allows you to track and benchmark the curve of the epidemic (number of cases and deaths) in your country with that of another. Very well done and informative. (Link)
“Going Critical” by Kevin Simler is a detailed interacting essay talking about complex systems, the importance of understanding networks, modelling and how this applies to: memes, infectious diseases, herd immunity, wildfire, neutrons and culture. Must read (Link)
🇸🇬/🌎 Singapore remains the gold standard of dashboard. Here is an article with the Best and Worst of all dashboard in the world, with Pros and Cons prepared by Neel V. Patel for MIT Technology (Article)
🏛 Notable tracking projects
💊“COVID-19 treatment and vaccine tracker”. This tracker contains an aggregation of publicly-available information from validated sourcesby the Milken Institute (Link)
🏛Tariq Krim has started a COVID19 website tracking data about each government policy response to the pandemic (Link)
🏛Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) was launched yesterday. Data is collected from public sources by a team of dozens of Oxford University students and staff from every part of the world. It also looks at stringency of the measures and plots stringency with case curves. A great initiative and resource (Link)
👩💻Mike Butcher (Editor at Large Techcrunch and founder of TechforUK), had refocused TechforUK on the fight against COVID19. It is a very effective hands-on team of volunteer. Do reach out to them. He has also teamed up with We are now working closely with the volunteers behind the “Coronavirus Tech Handbook”. (They are ‘cousins’ of ours who originally created the Electiontechhandbook). Volunteer collaboration at its best! (Link)
📰 Cronycle resource:
Cronycle has made available a number of open-access feeds on its website which I extensively use for the Corona Daily. The four first feeds are:
1. COVID-19 General (Link)
2. COVID-19 x Resilience (Link)
3. COVID-19 x HCQ/CQ (Link) (HydroxyChloroquine and Chloroquine)
4. Gig Economy x COVID-19 (Link)
And I have added a new feed below
5. Supply Chain x COVID-19 (Link)
I will write more in the future on how you can leverage Cronycle for keeping up to date in between two editions of this newsletter. (Link)
Here is a blog post from Valerie Pegon at Cronycle: “Grow knowledge about Covid-19, not anxiety!” (Link)
🎬 The Grant Sanderson permanent video corner:
Exponential growth and epidemics
This is an excellent video explaining “exponential growth” and epidemics. Although we are all familiar with the phrase, its authors rightly says that “yet human intuition has a hard time recognising what it means”. This is a ❗️MUST WATCH❗️to understand fully what is upon us but also how early behavioural changes at scale can have a massive impact on the level of exponential growth of COVID19 (Link)
“Simulating an Epidemic”
This is the second video by Grant Sanderson looking at simulating an epidemic under different physical distancing measures. (Link)