Coronavirus weekly: expert analysis from The Conversation global network

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The global crisis triggered by the spread of the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, continues to take fresh and dramatic turns, causing havoc in dozens of countries around the world. Stock markets remain volatile, having recording historic collapses in share prices.

US S&P500 Intraday volatility (the swing from high to low within one day) is approaching what was observed during the global financial crisis.

As the disease continued to spread – to new geographies as well as in numbers – governments began to take what just weeks ago might have seemed extreme measures in a bid to contain it. Italy enforced a nationwide lockdown while several other countries issued travel restrictions. Schools and universities were shut down in some territories, while thousands of companies told their employees to work from home.

By March 16, at the time of writing, COVID-19 had been detected in almost 150 countries, according to the World Health Organization, which now regards the crisis as a pandemic. More than 160 000 people had been diagnosed and fatalities had risen to close to 6,500.


This is our weekly roundup of expert info about the Coronavirus.
The Conversation, a not-for-profit group, works with a wide range of academics across its global network. Together we produce evidence-based analysis and insights from across academia. The articles are free to read – there is no paywall – and to republish.


Amid all of the uncertainty about how the pandemic might unfold, and what its implications may be, articles from The Conversation have provided a unique guide. Publishing in four languages – English, French, Bahasa Indonesia and Spanish – The Conversation’s eight editions have seen a spike in readership. We hope this is providing an antidote to misinformation emanating from some social and mainstream media.

In this second weekly column by our team of international health editors we are, once again, highlighting some of the most recently published articles from The Conversation’s global network.

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Prepare for our new way of life

One thing has become evident: we have to prepare for a new way of life. Experts have weighed in on what this might entail:

  • Close schools and universities? From the International University of La Rioja, Spain, Vicente Soriano makes the argument for closure (in Spanish) while Kyungmee Lee from Lancaster University, UK, argues that moving university courses online isn’t as simple as it sounds.
  • Cancelling public gatherings. Another dramatic change has been the escalating cancellation of public gatherings and major sporting events. Simon Chadwick of EM Lyon Business School considers the decimation of the international sporting calendar. Kari Brossard Stoos from Ithaca College, US, and Heather Dichter from De Montfort University, UK, explore how these cancellations will impact on the Olympic Games.
  • “Telehealth” could play a role in limiting the spread of the virus. Centaine Snoswell and Anthony Smith from the University of Queensland in Australia explain what it is.
  • End of the handshake. Erika Hughes from the University of Portsmouth, UK, looks at why COVID-19 could change greetings forever.

Epidemic, pandemic? The differences and key implications

Another big question academics addressed regarded the WHO’s decision to ramp up its definition of the outbreak from an epidemic to a pandemic.

  • What’s the difference between epidemic and pandemic? From Texas A&M University, US, assistant professor of epidemiology Rebecca S.B. Fischer explains.
  • What drove the escalation from epidemic to pandemic? Fernando González Candelas head of the joint research unit on infection and public health at Valencia University, Spain, and writing in Spanish, reports.
  • What’s the UK doing differently? It appears that the British government is pursuing a different approach to that taken in other countries. Is this sensible? Jeremy Rossman of the University of Kent, UK, writes.
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Why it’s time to read about Spanish flu

Academics have also offered historical perspectives, reaching back to the Spanish flu epidemic a century ago. Howard Phillips from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, reflects on the elementary mistakes in the repatriation of South African soldiers from England in 1918. Meanwhile, Chris Colvin from Queen’s University Belfast, UK, and Eoin McLaughlin from University College Cork, Ireland, explore the economic lessons to be learned from the Spanish flu.

Coronavirus is also spreading misinformation

Along with the spread of the disease comes the spread of misinformation.

  • Vitamin C protects against coronavirus? Peter McCaffery, professor of biochemistry at the University of Aberdeen debunks a very common myth: taking vitamin C is unlikely to prevent or cure a coronavirus infection.
  • How to engage with the news in times of crisis. Professor of journalism and social media at Griffith University, Australia, Mark Pearson, offers advice. And Denis Muller from the University of Melbourne, Australia, highlights the importance of making sure that journalists apply the highest ethical standards in their reporting of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Who is patient zero?

Massive questions still remain. One is who or what infected “Patient Zero”. Wanda Markotter from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, unpacks steps scientists have taken to track the original source of COVID-19.

The good news is that there’s a great deal of knowledge sharing taking place internationally to tackle this pandemic, and Aleks Berditchevskaia and Kathy Peach from the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design at Nesta, UK, look at seven ways in which this is happening.

Scientists are still searching for the source of COVID-19. Getty Images

The article was originally posted on www.theconversation.com/africa

Ina Skosana- Health and Medicine Editor ( Africa edition)

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