Oops link to private Cronycle board in yesterday’s post: as I have written before I use Cronycle to curate for my newsletter. Yesterday, one of the hyperlinks was pointing to my private COVID-19 board. It was Professor Nicholas Christakis excellent thread on serological testing. Here is the correct link. Apologies.
📊 Daily Data Brief:
290,937 cumulative cases (+38,120)
Active cases: 185,368 (+32,017) (this is the number of currently infected patients)
Total Death: 11,951 (+1,546)
Serious/Critical Cases: 8,261 (+803)
Death curves (updated daily as ECDC releases). Major update with per country graphs now available❗️(Link)
Boris Johnson: “We are collectively telling, telling cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can, and not to open tomorrow.”
The curtain was drawn in the U.K. yesterday by Boris Johnson. And everybody in the U.K. and around the world, are asking themselves: is this the intermission or the final act of the “World as we know it”.
Most of the COVID19 advisors and heads of governments have been rather candid about the length of this current phase, starting with Boris Johnson: first by opening with “Yesterday I set out the ambition of this government to turn the tide against coronavirus within 3 months”and later on with “and I want to stress that we will review the situation each month, to see if we can relax any of these measures.” In France, Jean-François Delfraissy, the head of the French Scientific Advisory Group on COVID-19, said during an interview (in French): “we have a four-week horizon”. Dr. Anthony Fauci, lead scientist of Trump’s COVID19 task force, said “if you look at the trajectory of the curves in other areas it’s at least going to be several weeks”.
The UK appeared to have been the last stand out in not accepting the reality of the need for this “suppression” phase to the point that several articles yesterday writing about lockdown were starting by “Even the U.K…”. As if the U.K., with quite good historical credentials and its laudable civil liberties credo, was the last beacon of hope. But even the U.K. had to abdicate in front of the deadly risk of the virus and close its famous public houses (the “iconic pub”) and other public venues. It did so by “telling, telling” the owners of these venues rather than by using the law, but the pronouncement was the same. And, even though only 20% of Americans have been ordered in quarantine predominantly at the City or State level, it was the U.K. which was being singled out as the last bastion of hope for civil liberties.
The British could still remain a standout in how they uphold the freedom that we all value and too often take for granted in how they implement it. As Boris Johnson invoked in his speech the use of “digital technologies” to help fight the virus, there is a great risk of durably and unnecessarily curtailing civil liberties depending how these technologies are deployed. One should not forget why the CNIL, the French regulator to enforce data privacy law, was set up in 1978. As Wikipedia rightly states:
“The CNIL was created partially in response to public outrage against the SAFARI program, which was an attempt by the French government to create a centralized database allowing French citizens to be personally identified by different government services.”
Some of the “world as we know it” might mot be the world as we want it, and while the focus for governments and citizen should be to “save lives at all costs”, we should make sure this crisis is a catalyst for a better world rather than for a world with increasing surveillance, authoritarianism and populist nationalism. The urgency and severity of the pandemic could easily push us in a darker direction on all three. The U.K. as it has been in the past should be a closely watched bastion of this ideal. It is up to us globally and individually to employ our earned freedom to enhance our security through better civic engagement, increased cooperation and creativity and come out even stronger from this crisis.
What happens to this virus and our world depends on us. Let us make the most of what will at least be a durable intermission. During it, we should not believe that “Hell is the other people” and instead that “Help is the other people”.
🎬 Video of the day: Dr Antonio Fauci has been a standout and prolific communicator on this crisis. In this short video he answers candidly the NBC anchor question: “how long do you think Americans need to be in this posture” (Link)
🇺🇸 Picture of the day: The New York times has been over the years outstanding in its digital strategy and particularly innovative in its digital storytelling. This has continued since the beginning of this pandemic. In “Coronavirus Could Overwhelm U.S. Without Urgent Action, Estimates Say”, it provides a simple state-by-state visualisation of forecasted COVID-19 cases along 3 control strategies: no control, some control and severe control. A convincing and urgent read for Americans. (Link)
❗️ The UK government has published on its website “Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE): Coronavirus (COVID-19) response” where it provides a comprehensive set of resources which it considered in setting its policy as well as the working and role of SAGE. This level of transparency, which I was a strong advocate of when the government was pushing its now defunct and controversial herd immunity- based strategy, is a welcome development and will serve to better engage and mobilise the public around its policy (or potentially submit it to constructive criticism) (Link)
🤝 In the documents released above there is a number of documents focusing on the public response to the policy and looking at “The role of behavioural science in the coronavirus outbreak”. The resilience and acceptance of the policy was early on rightly a focus of the government. Two passages standout in the 3-page document: the risk assessment for public:
• SPI-B agreed that large scale rioting is unlikely and rarely seen in these circumstances. Acts of altruism will likely predominate and the Government could promote and guide these.
• The group concluded that, in order to limit the risk of public disorder even further, the Government should: provide clear and transparent reasons for the different strategies that might be taken; set clear expectations on how the national response would develop; and promote collective action throughout the country.
One can only laud the government for having released this document and followed SPI-B recommendation in releasing the same. (Link)
🇩🇪 Guy Martin for Forbes looks at “With Its COVID-19 Caseload Spiking Past 14,000, Here’s Why Germany’s Mortality Rate Is 40 Times Lower Than Italy’s”. The article puts forward the hypothesis that it is a relatively young and healthy demographics of Germans who initially contracted the virus. It infers that this current low mortality rate, in spite of the quality of hospital care, might only be temporary and spike as other age demographics contract the virus. A lot will depend on how well Germans respect the guidance and in particular in their guidance around inter-generational contact. (Link)
🏥 Euronews answers a question which many are asking about their respective country: “COVID-19: How many intensive care beds do member states have?”. It ranks countries ICU capacities according to OECD data. Countries range from 2 ICU beds/1,000 inhabitants for Sweden to 6 ICU beds/1,000 inhabitants for Germany (Link)
💊 Lev Facher for STAT pens “Trump says his belief in one potential coronavirus drug is ‘just a feeling’”. It is the second time in two days in which Trump has appeared to either be in disagreement with members of his team (the head of NIAID or the current FDA Director) discussing vaccines or treatment in development. As much as good news would be welcome, it is equally dangerous for Trump to give false hopes or appear to interfere in the approval process of the FDA, the drug regulator. In Politico, Sarah Owermohle goes further in her article looking “The risk in 'cutting red tape' for coronavirus treatments”. Both important reads and timely warnings at a time where the public and the markets become increasingly desperate for ‘good news’. (Link)
💪 Alex Danco had asked on March 1, which Taleb-ism from Nicholas Taleb (essayist, scholar, statistician, and former option trader and risk analyst) is most misunderstood:
“anti-fragility” came second, and this post is an explanation of the concept and its relevance to the current crisis.
“Here, we find antifragility: things that need disorder in order to thrive, and will actively suffer if left at rest. Most objects in the world don’t have this property, but a lot of complex systems and living things do. Markets, democracies, and immune systems are all antifragile: without variance, they stagnate and die. With variance, especially unexpected variance, they grow stronger. Disorder is a key ingredient to how they function.”
At this time we all have to hope that our immune system, our markets and democracies have the “anti-fragility” needed to fight COVID19. Alex Danco is a firm believer that the US will demonstrate its anti-fragility and that it’s made to face these type of pandemic. A hopeful read(Link)
📲 I had highlighted in a previous post, Jeremy Farrar (Director of the Wellcome Trust) distancing himself from the use of the word “social distancing” in describing what is needed in the first fight of your fight against COVID19. He preferred the use of the words “physical distancing” as we will need our social connectedness in our prolonged fight. Pamela B. Paresky elaborates on Jeremy’s tweet (now deleted) in her article in Psychology Today. (Link)
Privacy department: this might become an area of focus quite soon
🚔 Tim Wu writes “Bigger Brother” a timely review of Shosannah Zuboff book “The age of Surveillance Capitalism” published last year in the New York Review of Books. Timely because very soon the public might be asked (or ordered) to participate in digital tracing in our fight against the virus. Haste and poor design might lead authorities to go further down the path of surveillance when maybe the free will of the public to protect itself might present an opportunity to built another more sustainable and desirable digital paradigm. A must read. (Link)
🇭🇰 In a simplet and more to the point read, Simon Sharwood for the register writes: “Hong Kong makes wearable trackers mandatory for new arrivals, checks in with ‘surprise calls’ too”. One can imagine from reading the article how all of us might participate in look-alike security bracelet program which until now we though were exclusively reserved to criminals on bail. Chilling and hopefully not prescient for most of us. (Link)
The history department: history can be of great help for us as we look to tackle one of the greatest crisis since the World Wars by providing (a) learnings from humanity’s past catastrophic events but also (b) needed hope by demonstrating our ability to survive them.
📜 Two very interesting articles. Isaac Chotiner for the New Yorker looks at “How Governments Respond to Pandemics Like the Coronavirus”. This is an interview of Sir Richard J. Evans, the provost of Gresham College who wrote: “Death in Hamburg: Society and Politics in the Cholera Years (1830-1910).” Look at the timespan: 80 years. A fascinating interview looking at whether pandemics shape history, our ability or not to learn from them, and how cultural difference might trigger different responses as we witnessed with COVID19 (Link)
📜 The second one is an article from 2005 by Ole Benedictow for History Today: “The Black Death: The Greatest Catastrophe Ever”. Although the article appears to mainly focusing on understanding and explaining why until now its death toll had been underestimated and that the Bubonic plague most probably killed 60 million in the 14th Century, I was particularly struck by another part of the narrative. Benedictow clearly describes how increasing trade amongst countries and the start of animal husbandry were two important vectors in the severity of this epidemic. 6 centuries apart but already talking about animal markets and travel. (Link)
📊 A picture is worth a thousand words: Global (🌎) and local (with relevant flag) visualisation and forecasting tool
❗️Massive update❗️🌎 This is a GitHub made by my friend Francois Lagunas (co-founder and CTO extraordinaire of Stupeflix, a company we backed). He has written a script to scrape deaths and number of cases in order to visualise the rate of growth on a logarithmic scale. He has taken a time offset for countries assuming that South Korea and Italy are 36 days behind China’s outbreak, and France and the USA a further 9 days behind. Added a number of countries as well. Great resource (Link)
NEW❗️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: Madrid (4% of city moving) at one end and Singapore at the other end (72% 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)
NEW❗️🇩🇪 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”). It is a very extensive dashboard with 28 pages. 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)
🇸🇬/🌎 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)
🇺🇸 This is the New York Times data and graph page on COVID19 with an update map of the US alone (Link)
🎬 One further video today:
Dr. Anthony Fauci heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and is part of Trump COVID-19 team. He’s interviewed by Judy Woodruff to discuss the crisis: his biggest concern, how the US stands with its testing ability, whether or not COVID-19 will become endemic (like the flu) or be eradicated (like SARS). Great interview and the Americans should be grateful to have such a dedicated, experience and clear communicator to lead the fight against COVID19 (7 min) (Link)
🏛 Notable collaborative projects
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)
Tariq Krim has started a COVID19 website tracking data about each government policy response to the pandemic (Link)
📈 Exponential growth and epidemics (permanent video)
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)