📊 Daily Data Brief:
252,817 cumulative cases (+25,312)
Active cases: 153,351 (+21,110) (this is the number of currently infected patients)
Total Death: 10,405 (+1,102)
Serious/Critical Cases: 7,458 (+562)
Death curves (updated with daily ECDC releases). Major update with per country graphs now available❗️(Link)
“No exit” is the title translation of Jean Paul Sartre’s 1944 play “Huis Clos” (a literal translation would be “in chambers”). The book details the afterlife of three souls trapped together in a room for eternity and the torments that they inflict on each other. The famous quote from it is: “Hell is other people”.
It is a very fitting read as most of the citizens around the world enter their “No Exit” modalities dictated or suggested by their federal, state or local governments (or maybe of their own willing applying their reason and concern for others). It is timely, because Sartre investigates in his play how interconnectedness can become hell. Sartre himself offered a clarification about his famous quote:
"Hell is other people" has always been misunderstood. It has been thought that what I meant by that was that our relations with other people are always poisoned, that they are invariably hellish relations. But what I really mean is something totally different. I mean that if relations with someone else are twisted, vitiated, then that other person can only be hell. Why? Because … when we think about ourselves, when we try to know ourselves … we use the knowledge of us which other people already have. We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves.”
It is impossible not to see the increasing amount of “blame of others” spreading alongside COVID19. Blame and distrust are the opposite of what we need to effectively fight the virus. We will need to understand why the type of interconnectedness globalisation has increasingly fostered and accelerated is increasingly becoming hellish in the age of the zoonotic pandemics. What is “twisted”, “vitiated” in the interconnectedness that it promotes and how can we immediately reconnect to the positive aspects of our interconnectedness to efficiently fight COVID19. We can already see how fragile globalisation’s “interconnectedness” is and how easily it is terminated when confronted with our survival instinct. It was mainly built with financial and trade considerations with very little regard to anything else.
However, it is equally important as it will need to be in addressing climate risk, that we more than ever cooperate in fighting this pandemic whilst accepting our common fate as inhabitant of a shared space. Blame is everywhere and its toxic to the current fight.
Just to name a few, leaders blame other countries. Some blame label COVID19 the “Chinese virus” while others bans journalist and some blame the recent spikes on “imported cases”. Governments blame their citizens for irresponsibility to justify a draconian curtailment of civil liberties in increasingly tough lockdowns. Citizens blame their government for inaction now that they see the ravage of the virus which China exposed to their government at the end of January…
And whilst scrutiny of each other’s action must continue (accountability of government policy and of all age groups’ behaviour within society to name two) in this crisis it does not need to be hellish and should be transformed in a force for good and action. We will deal with the fragility of the system afterwards. We need to move away from blame and from “hell is other people” to “help is other people”. We will find ways to come out stronger now and longer term more sustainably from this pandemic.
The sooner we embrace our collective the sooner we will come out of our lockdown. It’s “No exit” for now
🦠 Video of the day: amazing video and warning to countries which are a few days behind what Italy is experiencing now.
“It is believed nations like the US, England, France, Spain and Germany are about 9-10 days behind Italy in the COVID19 progression. We asked people from all around Italy to record a message to the themselves of 10 days prior.”
A gift from our Italian friends in their own musical and lyrical language!
Picture of the day: while it is urgent and critical in our fight against the virus to increase testing capacity (in particular serological testing as discussed yesterday and today again), it is important to look at what’s happening to the best in class countries thus far and their recent reported case numbers. It does not matter that these are predominantly “imported cases”, it just shows that once you lift restrictions you get a spike. There is no panacea in this fight. Picture below from a New York Times article.
💡 Dr. Raj Panjabi (CEO of Last Mile Health and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School) has written two uplifting articles focused on increasing our needed capacity whilst benefiting the community. It is his shocking realisation when he return to Liberia in 2005 and found that the country was left with only 51 doctors to serve 4 million people that he founded the foundation Last Mile Health. The foundation mission is to collaborate with governments and partners “to hire, train, and equip thousands of community health workers”.
Drawing from his experience in Liberia during Ebola, Dr Panjabi writes with Ellen Johnson (former President of Liberia) in Time magazine, “Five Key Lessons from Ebola That Can Help Us Win Against Coronavirus, Everywhere. The fives lessons are:
“Slow down the virus — take swift action to temporarily ban public gatherings, close schools and ask your residents to stay at home.
Test, test, test: rapidly scale up testing and bring it as close as possible to your residents’ homes
Protect health care workers who provide care for the sick
Repurpose arms of government, including the military, to support epidemic response
Plan for recovery now focusing on those most affected by the pandemic’s economic blow”
His second article in Medium “What If Jobless U.S. Workers Were Hired to Fight Coronavirus?”, anticipates the upcoming surge in unemployment started by COVID19 matched by our current lack of health care capacity. With training and adequate protection (including wide availability of serological tests), it is a win-win to train the rising unemployed as “community health workers” to increase health capacity and flatten unemployment. Uplifting, sensible and tested approach. (Link)
🧪 Nicholas Christakis (Sterling Professor of Social & Natural Science at Yale) has written a superb Twitter thread on serological testing, looking at its importance, how it works and what we will learn from it.
“Let’s talk about what happens if you get COVID19 and recover. Are you immune to the disease? How long does the immunity last? And what does that mean for your life and for the public health and economy of our society?”
A very worthwhile and urgent read. Thank you. (Link)
🚔 Daniel Estrin writes in NPR about another important tool in our fight against COVID19. In “Israel Begins Tracking And Texting Those Possibly Exposed To The Coronavirus”, looks at the implementation of contact tracing in Israel and how it felt foul of the law. Contact tracing does not need to be architected so poorly to achieve its goal. Currently advising a friend with a contact-tracing project with a lot more user privacy consideration. Important read to prepare for the upcoming debate (or not) on contact tracing. (Link)
🧮 Two very interesting articles on the role of modelling in informing policy response on COVID19. In “Why the UK government’s approach to coronavirus modelling is dangerous”, Joshua Simons in the New Statesman warns about blindly following mathematical modelling to inform policy. Simons rightly argues for the importance of human judgement in the decision-making process and warns politicians against using the scientists to absolve themselves of responsibility.
In a more tongue-in-cheek but equally incisive article, Chris Giles (Economics editor at the Financial Times) write “Scientists should take lessons from economists on virus response”. Scientists were very critical of economists for not forecasting the 2008 crisis. Giles remarks the naïveté of epidemiologists as the new forecasting emperors. Both Giles and Simons articles are kind warning particularly given that economists and epidemiologist will both need to work together in providing a framework rather than answers to policy makers.
In the face of the current radical uncertainty both disciplines fall short in giving definite answers. Assuming otherwise would be both non-sensical and dangerous. Better for all of us, that they cooperate on COVID19 than think that the economists will get the last laugh. (Link and Link)
📜 History, might be a good discipline to add to our toolkit to come up with the most appropriate policy response. Jonathan Boff’s sequel article “Crisis Management for Beginners II: Lessons from Two World Wars” preeminently features John Maynard Keynes whose work. His “How to pay for the war” pamphlet was influential document to drive policy makers’ packages to counter the economic catastrophe of World War II. Boff nonetheless warns us against drawing easy or tempting parallels:
“For all the ‘we are at war’ analogies going the rounds, there are huge differences between the situation we face now and that of 1940. There’s no danger of inflation, for one thing. We will need to find ways to stimulate consumption, not depress it. There is no visible enemy against whom we can unite, for another, so it will be even more important to find ways to bring us together and offer us the hope of a better future. Keynes teaches us how lucidity, courage, and a willingness to use crisis to reform, can help do that.”
It is therefore other virtues and qualities of Keynes the economist that we should look to rather than his core skills and pamphlet at the time. Echoes Simons and Giles article above (Link)
💰 Jonathan Tepper (Founder of Variant Perception - an investment research firm, and author of “The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition”) writes “Covid-19 has exposed our financial fragility” for Unherd. His subtitle “An orgy of borrowing, speculation and euphoria has left the markets on the verge of catastrophe” is a good summary of the first part of the article. Tepper sees COVID19 as the sand grain triggering the collapse of the sand pile. However, and in a more optimistic ending Tepper also sees COVID19 as the unlikely catalyst which unifies Left and Right to consider a more radical policy future:
“Against this dangerous backdrop of volatility and uncertainty, the coronavirus will now achieve the impossible. For the past few years, two ideas have floated around on the political fringes of the Left, but they have been dead on arrival. No one has seriously thought they might become government policy. Today, the Left and Right in the United States and Europe are embracing them.”
Must read. (Link)
😰 There is also concern, that COVID19 will hit the vulnerable even harder. Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic had written a thought provoking article looking how out the gig economy and its workers would fare from the epidemic. His colleague Olga Khazan now investigates workers’ treatment at an Amazon NY facility where a co-worker tested COVID19 positive. Thought provoking. A reminder that we are not all equal in front of this virus, and that the vulnerable need protection for our collective benefit and ultimate success against the pandemic. (Link)
📊 A picture is worth a thousand words
❗️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)
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)
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 Con 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)
🎬 Podcast of the day: my friend Azeem in conversation with Adam Kucharski (a mathematician and epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the author of The Rules of Contagion: Why Things Spread - and Why They Stop). The podcast discusses the state of the outbreak and explains the modelling that epidemiologists like Kucharski and Neil Ferguson use to forecast and assist policy makers.
“Modelling the pandemic” (37 minutes) (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 the 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)