Close

Expert opinion

For my 40 birthday I got a new brother. Not a scrawny, screaming, baby brother but a corpulent, competent, pillar of the community big brother. An old friend, having drunk his fill, found himself unable to keep his secret for a single second longer and spewed it out at my party.
Whether it’s hand hygiene, physical distancing, disinfecting surfaces, wearing masks or taking actions to protect the most vulnerable, behavior change has a key role to play in tackling the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. That’s why a new brief from the World Bank, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Harvard Kennedy School and Project Clear provides guidelines and principles to help governments develop national behavior change communications strategies.
Coronaviruses, such as the newly-discovered SARS-CoV-2, are RNA viruses that have a single short RNA strand consisting of 30,000 letters composed from either ‘A’, ‘C’, ‘G’ and ‘T’ - which provides the genetic instructions for the virus to replicate. As the virus spreads, its genetic information, or genome, randomly changes a few letters at a time (referred to as mutation). These changes can help us to track the origin, spread and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 around the world.
“Since the lockdown in Zimbabwe was mandated beginning on March 30th, I take my daily walks to get out of the confines of my house. As the weeks progress, these walks have become…busier. Cars everywhere, people everywhere. My local potato and tomato vendors started reappearing at street corners, attempting to sell their produce. At one point I asked one of the vendors if the lockdown had ended, and I had somehow missed that announcement. No, the lockdown hadn't ended but the need to feed their families and earn some income had intensified.
First we were told to work from home (16 March). Then came the school closures (18 March), followed by restaurants and pubs (20 March). And then, on 23 March - the full lockdown; no one allowed to leave his or her own home except for essential purposes. This decision changed our lives for nearly six weeks. As we consider how long these restrictions will continue was that decision worth it?
There is a wealth of statistics on COVID-19 appearing in the media. Major policy decisions and interventions are being based on statistics about COVID-19 frequency and forecasts of what that will become. These numbers are being used to create headlines and make major decisions as to which countries are 'in the lead', if we should 'lockdown' and when, what to do when the lockdown is over, whether herd immunity is an acceptable option, etc. These different policy options are supported by models which use the same data, but produce different forecasts.
Parenting is a steep learning curve for everyone. For me, this includes newly acquired skills for long hair management of my four year old daughter, Isabella. Hair clips are a key accessory for that. The problem with hair clips is that they are easy to lose and impossible to track down again - at the end of the day they could be at school, at a friends house, music class, or the swimming pool lockers. 
There is still much to learn about SARS-Cov-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 outbreak. For example, we are still relatively in the dark about why some people get infected and others don’t. Testing for SARS-Cov-2, both in symptomatic people and in the general population, is a crucial part of understanding the infection, how it spreads, and how we can best prevent it. And we believe that a little-used study design, known as the test-negative design, can be adapted to study these causes of the infection.
In an interview with the live-in care provider Elder, Selina spoke about protecting the carer/care recipient dynamic during lockdown, practical advice to halt the spread of coronavirus and how the wider community can combat social isolation together. Selina, what are the most important elements of self isolation that care recipients, caregivers and families need to be aware of during this time?
Anticipate health inequalities. Create an enabling environment to support behaviour change. Harness multidisciplinary science. A wave of public health action and evaluation built on these principles should be launched immediately.