COVID-19 updates from LSHTMFriday 5 June 2020
Latest statements from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine for media and the public during the outbreak.
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.