🦠Covid-19 - The courage to act| 🤕 227,505 | Deaths 9,303

Apologies for the late arrival of the CoronaDaily today, but I might have developed a slight fever and cough. I have self-isolated.

📊 Daily Data Brief: 

227,505 cumulative cases (+25,233)

Active cases: 132,241  (+20,795) (this is the number of currently infected patients)

Total Death: 9,303   (+1,281) 

Serious/Critical Cases:  6,896 (+473) 

Source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

Death curves (update coming later once ECDC releases new data as well as new script to include more countries)


As I see fear and anxiety rise as COVID19’s exponential spread continues to fill our hospitals, still infect our health workers and take away loved ones and member of our community, I thought it was time to remember one of my favourite quote from the late Nelson Mandela:

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Everyone of us react differently to the radical uncertainty which COVID19 has brought into our life. Whilst we learn everyday about our foe, we still have knowledge gaps about its fatality, its mutation and the adequacy of our response. Acknowledging the reality of this fear is a necessary and initial step that we must all take individually and collectively. Only then can we start to build the resilience, adaption and capacity needed to fight COVID19.

I have also witnessed anger or criticism at the response of our government to the pandemic. It is hard to know if this anger is a coping mechanism by believing that the solution and the predicament we find ourselves in could have been avoided had we had better governments. In doing so one might feel a bit less helpless in front of the radical uncertainty and the spectre of death. Or anger might simply be justified and the criticism due and not partisan at all. I have also seen reproach at the people expressing that anger without wandering whether it was a necessary part in the political process of citizen demanding and indicating that they will support stronger government actions. As such it should be welcome and seen as wholly part of the democratic exercise rather than seen as wasteful venting.

In these challenging times, it is more important than ever to know what the right level of critique is to support mobilisation of the public, maintain high accountability and foster transparency from governments, without triggering distrust or unrest. Accountability is not only at the government level, it is also at the community or individual level. I have seen anxiety at the fact that young people might not fully be aware of their role in spreading the disease and thereby increasing the severity of the epidemic. We, young and old, all have a role to play as we adapt to this new world.

It is more than ever up to us what happens to this pandemic. We must acknowledge our fear to have the courage to act.


🦠 Video of the day: according to Kai Kupferschmidt (Science writer), Angela Merkel has been Chancellor for 14 years, and this is the first time she has addressed the nation apart from the annual New Year address.


😰 I have featured Peter M. Sandman and Jody Lanard before in my newsletter to talk about effective communication in the time of a pandemic. They have written “Strange COVID-19 Bedfellows: Gnawing Anxiety and Under-Reaction”, looking at the disconnect between our gut anxiety towards COVID19 and for some our continued reluctance in accepting the change in our life which fighting it demands. More specifically they write about people confronting the pandemic:

“ On the one hand, they feel a gnawing anxiety in the pit of their stomachs that just won’t go away.

On the other hand, they haven’t changed their daily lives much yet, or even planned much for the life changes that they sort-of suspect are just around the corner.”

It also advocates for more empathetic communication from government leaders and give a number of examples of leaders having successfully connected on the emotional level with their people in times of crisis. A long and worthwhile read. (Link)

🦠 A number of great reads on the zoonotic threat which COVID19 is part of. In another long and worthwhile read, John Vidal (former environment editor for the Guardian) pens for his old paper in partnership with Ensia 'Tip of the iceberg': is our destruction of nature responsible for Covid-19?. It is a fascinating read looking how human recent and increased interaction with animal habitats as well how the existence of live animal markets, have all made inevitable the repeated emergence of these zoonotic epidemics from Marburg to Ebola to coronaviruses such as COVID19. It references the book of David Quammen “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic” (a great read). The book was published in 2012 and Quammen recently wrote a provocative and prescient article on COVID19 on January 28 in the New York Times: “We made the coronavirus epidemic”. It seems that none of our leaders had read it. (Link)

🧪 There has been a very welcome development in testing, on top of the US partnering with the private sector and gradually making up for the initial testing fiasco: the ability to detect COVID19 antibodies in individuals. This will be a critical tool in increasing our virus surveillance testing capability and evaluating the viability for population to get protection through herd immunity as and when over 60% of the population would be infected. More importantly and immediately it will also provide us with more confidence in allowing safely a previously infected health care worker to return to the front line. Before reading the pre-print “A serological assay to detect SARS-CoV-2 seroconversion in humans” and the Twitter thread explainer provided by Florian Kramer (Professor at the Department of Microbiology Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, whose group published the paper), you might want to read the excellent article in Wired ( it explains the different types of virus tests and provides a great analysis of what went wrong in the US). (Link and Thread)

🏛 Jon Cohen and Kai Kupferschmidt write “Mass testing, school closings, lockdowns: Countries pick tactics in ‘war’ against coronavirus” giving a very good assessment and review of the latest policies which various countries have used to fight the pandemic. It also provide a sobering view from Mark Woolhouse from Edinburgh University who predicts:

“When, and how, will it end? It’s now clear that humanity won’t get rid of COVID-19 as it did with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003. We will be living with this virus indefinitely”

It also questions how society will be able to adapt and move away from the immediate draconian lockdowns which are being rolled out in an increasing number of countries to suppress the virus’ exponential growth potential. (Link)

💊 Moving to drug discovery and vaccine, Helen Branswell for STAT write “WHO to launch multinational trial to jumpstart search for coronavirus drugs”. WHO is preparing the next phase of the fight against COVID19 whilst continuing its education of the public and coordination of policies globally. This trial will involve a combination of four drugs already in the market which could be viable treatment while we wait for a vaccine (Link)

💉 Working from home Bill Gates did a Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit on COVID19. When asked about the prospect for a vaccine he provides a hopeful but also cautionary answer at to when we should expect it. Techcrunch has provided a very good summary or you can go to Reddit for the whole AMA. (Link and AMA)

❗️There is a very good interview of former FDA director Scott Gottlieb in the National Interest looking at what to expect on the therapeutic front to help us treat COVID19 patients. Gottlieb classifies the potential treatments in three classes: the vaccine, the antivirals and the antibody-based prophylactic. Therapeutic will be an increased focused of my newsletter as it is key in providing more policy option than the immediate and draconian lockdowns which now seem inevitable in most countries. (Link)

👎 In a setback, and there will be others, one potential antiviral drug candidate used for HIV, Kaletra, has failed as reported in the New York Times. (Link)

🏢 Josh Bersin, (Founder and head of the Bersin Institute and Corporate Talent, HR, & Learning Analyst) writes “Coronavirus Response: People First, Economics Second”. He explores how businesses should react and help build resilience for their people as they go through this catastrophic pandemic. He also advocates that now, echoing Peter M. Sandman and Jody Lanard for heads of government, CEO should now stand for Chief Empathy Officer. The article also includes a great graphic from Edelman Trust Barometer 2020, showing that as we enter this pandemic no organisation (whether NGOs, business, media or public institution) are both seen as competent and ethical, two key components of trust. A very good read for leader in our “Age of distrust” (Link)


📊 A picture is worth a thousand words

  1. 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)

  2. A helpful guide by VOX of the “9 coronavirus pandemic charts everyone should see” (Link)

  3. 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)

  4. UPDATE IN PROGRESS (visualisation by country coming)❗️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. You can clearly see that South Korea is an outlier (as already shown in my newsletter “Better safe than sorry” and that the severity of this outbreak will depend on the behaviours of the governed and the decisive action of our respective governments). (Link)

  5. 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)

  6. 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)

  7. This is the New York Times data and graph page on COVID19 with an update map of the US alone (Link)


🎬 (NEW❗️) Livestream and Courses on COVID19

Intelligence Squared (IQ2) is running a free “emergency online event” to answer your Q&A on COVID19. It is notable as IQ2 is a physical event company and they have been quick to adapt and provide a great panel for tonight at 7pm GMT.

The panel of expert will include Dr Xand Van Tulleken, epidemiologist Professor David Heymann, statistician Dr Adam Kucharski and economist Professor Linda Yueh. (RSVP Link)


🏛 (NEW❗️Notable collaborative projects 

  1. 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)

  2. 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)