Here’s a selection of what we think are the best reports from around the world on Covid-19 based on a subjective assessment of importance, accuracy, and relevance to trying to make sense of the pandemic and its impact
This reading list not exhaustive and we’ll aim to update it regularly with what we believe sheds light and helps you understand this crisis. If you have any suggestions, please let us know.
Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to “flatten the curve” – The Washington Post
If you want to understand the mathematics that underpins the projections of the behaviour and spread of novel coronavirus, this Washington Post report with data visualisations really doesn’t just tell the story, it shows it.
Graphics reporter Harry Stevens makes clear why lock-downs work. It’s all about starving the virus of new people to infect and at the same time relieving the strain on intensive care services. Covid-19 presents itself in data as an “exponential curve”.
“That is math, not prophecy,” he writes of the potential for a trickle of infection to become a flood. “The spread can be slowed…if people practice “social distancing” by avoiding public spaces and generally limiting their movement…without any measures to slow it down, Covid-19 will continue to spread exponentially for months.”
I consider this report to be one of the finest and most effective pieces of data journalism yet produced on any subject. There’s a reason the Washington Post moved the report outside of its paywall and translated it into Spanish, Italian, Arabic, French, Portuguese, Russian and half a dozen other languages. If you don’t read every word, just look at the astounding graphics to understand why your behaviour and that of everyone around you matters.
New data, new policy: why UK’s coronavirus strategy changed – The Guardian
Experts have had a tough rap in the UK through the Brexit debate but their value was recognised almost instantly last week when London’s Imperial College took a look at the assumptions underpinning the then strategy of the UK government to “mitigate” rather than follow World Health Organisation advice to “suppress” the spread of the SARS-Cov-2 virus which causes the Covid-19 illness.
When the history of this pandemic is written you can expect the Imperial College report to feature large
Signed by 30 epidemiologists, mathematicians and other experts in disease modeling from Imperial and its partners, the report dramatically exposed the tens of thousands – actually hundreds of thousands – of extra deaths that failing to suppress the virus could cause: potentially 510,000 in the UK and 2.2 million in the United States. At a stroke, it blew away an emerging and now orphaned British government plan for “herd immunity” – quelling the extent of the disease by allowing a significant majority of the population to get the virus.
When the history of this pandemic is written you can expect the Imperial College report to feature large. It could also prove decisive in any political or judicial reckoning on the success or failure of politicians around the world. The full-20-page report is here at Imperial.
“A week is a long time in a coronavirus pandemic,” Sarah Boseley, health editor of The Guardian wrote in her explanation of the Imperial report. She went on: “What changed was new data on the impact of Italy’s out-of-control epidemic on its health service. Basically, it is catastrophic.”
Covid-19 and the Stiff Upper Lip — The Pandemic Response in the United Kingdom- NJEM
“For many weeks, the British instinct to “Keep Calm and Carry On” was the public face of the U.K. government’s response to Covid-19,” The New England Journal of Medicine said in its report on the impact of the Imperial analysis. Then, it said, “the prime minister abruptly changed gears, though whether from neutral to first, second, or a higher gear is a matter of opinion.”
That was a gear-change the Journal suggested was late and unclear.
The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming – Wired
Larry Brilliant has a career as extraordinary as his name. I met him some years ago when he was running Google’s non-profit arm and traveling the world trying to shed a light on problems and the technology that could solve them.
He had previously led a team that defeated smallpox so he knows a thing or two about pandemics. In fact, he was an adviser on the 2011 movie Contagion. In this interview with Wired, Brilliant describes Covid-19 as “the most dangerous pandemic in our lifetime… If you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention.”
He goes on to explain why testing still matters, how politicians – particularly in the United States – got this so wrong and what it might take to get it right.