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Covid-19 pandemic

Transparency assessment of COVID-19 models

Authors: Mohammad S Jalali, Catherine DiGennaro, Devi Sridhar

Publication date: 27 October 2020

Journal: The Lancet Global Health

DOI: 10.1016/S2214-109X(20)30447-2

The COVID-19 pandemic has strained societal structures and created a global crisis. Scientific models have a crucial role in mitigating harm from the pandemic, by estimating the spread of outbreaks of the virus and analysing the effects of public health policies. The context-sensitive and time-sensitive measures provided by COVID-19 models offer real population health impacts and are of great importance. However, these models must be completely transparent before policies and insights are enacted.

Transparency is a cornerstone of scientific methodology, and efforts to improve transparency and reproducibility of research have been increasing over the past decade.1 Researchers have called for complete transparency of COVID-19 models.2 An absence of transparency in the design, development, and analysis of these models reduces the trust in their timely messages and limits their reproducibility, impeding scientists from verifying the findings and improving the model's performance. Many modellers have already shared the details of their models openly. However, the overall status of transparency of COVID-19 models remains unknown. We assessed whether COVID-19 modellers adhere to best practices in reporting and documentation; we did not evaluate whether a model's projections are correct.

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SARS-CoV-2 pandemic

Community prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in England during April to September 2020: Results from the ONS Coronavirus Infection Survey

Authors: Pouwels KB et al

Publication date: 27 October 2020

Journal: medRxiv

DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.26.20219428

Background: Decisions regarding the continued need for control measures to contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2 rely on accurate and up-to-date information about the number of people and risk factors for testing positive. Existing surveillance systems are not based on population samples and are generally not longitudinal in design. Methods: From 26 April to 19 September2020, 514,794 samples from 123,497 individuals were collected from individuals aged 2 years and over from a representative sample of private households from England. Participants completed a questionnaire and nose and throat swab were taken. The percentage of individuals testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA was estimated over time using dynamic multilevel regression and post-stratification, to account for potential residual non-representativeness. Potential changes in risk factors for testing positive over time were also evaluated using multilevel regression models. Findings: Between 26 April and 19 September 2020, in total, results were available from 514,794 samples from 123,497 individuals, of which 489 were positive overall from 398 individuals. The percentage of people testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 changed substantially over time, with an initial decrease between end of April and June, followed by low levels during the summer, before marked increases end of August and September 2020. Having a patient-facing role and working outside your home were important risk factors for testing positive in the first period but not (yet) in the second period of increased positivity rates, and age (young adults) being an important driver of the second period of increased positivity rates. A substantial proportion of infections were in individuals not reporting symptoms (53%-70%, dependent on calendar time). Interpretation: Important risk factors for testing positive varied substantially between the initial and second periods of higher positivity rates, and a substantial proportion of infections were in individuals not reporting symptoms, indicating that continued monitoring for SARS-CoV-2 in the community will be important for managing the epidemic moving forwards.


Covid-19 patients

UK report on 12,665 patients critically ill with COVID-19

Institution: Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre (ICNARC)

Publication date: 23 October 2020


Broadly-targeted autoreactivity is common in severe SARS-CoV-2 Infection

Authors: Woodruff MC, Ramonell RP, Eun-Hyung Lee F, Sanz I

Publication date: 23 October 2020

Journal: medRxiv preprint

DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.21.20216192

Severe SARS-CoV-2 infection is linked to the presence of autoantibodies against multiple targets, including phospholipids and type-I interferons. We recently identified activation of an autoimmune-prone B cell response pathway as correlate of severe COVID-19, raising the possibility of de novo autoreactive antibody production during the antiviral response. Here, we identify autoreactive antibodies as a common feature of severe COVID-19, identifying biomarkers of tolerance breaks that may indicate aggressive immunomodulation.

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Metabolomics Profiling of Critically Ill Coronavirus Disease 2019 Patients: Identification of Diagnostic and Prognostic Biomarkers

Authors: Douglas Fraser et al

Publication date: 21 October 2020

Journal: Critical Care Explorations

DOI: 10.1097/CCE.0000000000000272

Conclusions: Metabolomics profiling with feature classification easily distinguished both healthy control subjects and coronavirus disease 2019 negative patients from coronavirus disease 2019 positive patients. Arginine/kynurenine ratio accurately identified coronavirus disease 2019 status, whereas creatinine/arginine ratio accurately predicted coronavirus disease 2019-associated death. Administration of tryptophan (kynurenine precursor), arginine, sarcosine, and/or lysophosphatidylcholines may be considered as potential adjunctive therapies.

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Improving Survival of Critical Care Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019 in England

A National Cohort Study, March to June 2020

Authors: Dennis JM et al

Publication date: 26 October 2020

Journal: Critical Care Medicine

DOI: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000004747

Objectives: To measure temporal trends in survival over time in people with severe coronavirus disease 2019 requiring critical care (high dependency unit or ICU) management, and to assess whether temporal variation in mortality was explained by changes in patient demographics and comorbidity burden over time.

Design: Retrospective observational cohort; based on data reported to the COVID-19 Hospitalisation in England Surveillance System. The primary outcome was in-hospital 30-day all-cause mortality. Unadjusted survival was estimated by calendar week of admission, and Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate adjusted survival, controlling for age, sex, ethnicity, major comorbidities, and geographical region.

Setting: One hundred eight English critical care units.

Patients: All adult (18 yr +) coronavirus disease 2019 specific critical care admissions between March 1, 2020, and June 27, 2020.

Measurements and Main Results:  Twenty-one thousand eighty-two critical care patients (high dependency unit n = 15,367; ICU n = 5,715) were included. Unadjusted survival at 30 days was lowest for people admitted in late March in both high dependency unit (71.6% survival) and ICU (58.0% survival). By the end of June, survival had improved to 92.7% in high dependency unit and 80.4% in ICU. Improvements in survival remained after adjustment for patient characteristics (age, sex, ethnicity, and major comorbidities) and geographical region.

Conclusions: There has been a substantial improvement in survival amongst people admitted to critical care with coronavirus disease 2019 in England, with markedly higher survival rates in people admitted in May and June compared with those admitted in March and April. Our analysis suggests this improvement is not due to temporal changes in the age, sex, ethnicity, or major comorbidity burden of admitted patients.

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Trends in COVID-19 Risk-Adjusted Mortality Rates

Authors: Horwitz LI et al

Publication date: 23 October 2020

Journal: Journal of Hospital Medicine

DOI: 10.12788/jhm.3552 | 10.12788/jhm.3552

Early reports showed high mortality from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Mortality rates have recently been lower, raising hope that treatments have improved. However, patients are also now younger, with fewer comorbidities. We explored whether hospital mortality was associated with changing demographics at a 3-hospital academic health system in New York. We examined in-hospital mortality or discharge to hospice from March through August 2020, adjusted for demographic and clinical factors, including comorbidities, admission vital signs, and laboratory results. Among 5,121 hospitalizations, adjusted mortality dropped from 25.6% (95% CI, 23.2-28.1) in March to 7.6% (95% CI, 2.5-17.8) in August. The standardized mortality ratio dropped from 1.26 (95% CI, 1.15-1.39) in March to 0.38 (95% CI, 0.12-0.88) in August, at which time the average probability of death (average marginal effect) was 18.2 percentage points lower than in March. Data from one health system suggest that mortality from COVID-19 is decreasing even after accounting for patient characteristics.

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The Role of Vitamin D in The Age of COVID-19: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Authors: Ghasemian R et al

Publication date: 26 October 2020

Journal: medRxiv preprint

DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.05.20123554

Background: Evidence recommends that vitamin D might be a crucial supportive agent for the immune system, mainly in cytokine response regulation against COVID-19. Hence, we carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis in order to maximize the use of everything that exists about the role of vitamin D in the COVID-19. Methods: A systematic search was performed in PubMed, Scopus, Embase, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, and Google Scholar (intitle) as well as preprint database of medRxiv, bioRxiv, Research Square, preprints.org, and search engine of ScienceDirect up to October 10, 2020. Studies focused on the role of vitamin D in confirmed COVID-19 patients were entered into the systematic review. Results: Sixteen studies containing 4922 participants entered into the meta-analysis. The meta-analysis indicated that 48% of COVID-19 patients were suffering from vitamin D deficiency (95% CI, 29%-67%), and in 41% of patients, levels of vitamin D were insufficient (95% CI, 10%-82%). The serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration was 18 ng/mL among all COVID-19 patients (95% CI, 13-24). Co-morbidities frequency in COVID-19 patients were as follows: 7.4% cancer, 27.1% chronic kidney disease, 30.4% cardiovascular diseases, 5.1% dementia, 14.5% depression/anxiety, 32.1% diabetes, 47.4% hypertension, 22.0% obesity and 17.5% respiratory diseases. Reported ethnic groups in studies were 1.0% Afro-Caribbean, 10.3% Asian, and 92.1% Caucasian. Conclusion: This study found that the mean serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level was low in all COVID-19 patients, and most of them were suffering from vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency. The Caucasian was the dominant ethnic group, and the most frequent co-morbidities in COVID-19 patients were hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, obesity, and respiratory diseases, which might be affected by vitamin D deficiency directly or indirectly.

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SARS-CoV-2 specific T-cells Are Rapidly Expanded for Therapeutic Use and Target Conserved Regions of Membrane Protein

Authors: Keller MD et al

Publication date: 26 October 2020

Journal: Blood

DOI: 10.1182/blood.2020008488

T-cell responses to SARS-CoV-2 have been described in recovered patients, and may be important for immunity following infection and vaccination as well as for the development of an adoptive immunotherapy for the treatment of immunocompromised individuals. In this report, we demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cells can be expanded from convalescent donors, and recognize immunodominant viral epitopes in conserved regions of membrane, spike, and nucleocapsid. Following in vitro expansion using a GMP-compliant methodology (designed to allow the rapid translation of this novel SARS-CoV-2 T-cell therapy to the clinic), membrane, spike, and nucleocapsid peptides elicited IFN-γ production, in 27 (59%), 12 (26%), and 10 (22%) convalescent donors (respectively), as well as in 2 of 15 unexposed controls. We identified multiple polyfunctional CD4-restricted T-cell epitopes within a highly conserved region of membrane protein, which induced polyfunctional T cell responses, which may be critical for the development of effective vaccine and T cell therapies. Hence, our study shows that SARS-CoV-2 directed T-cell immunotherapy targeting structural proteins, most importantly membrane protein, should be feasible for the prevention or early treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection in immunocompromised patients with blood disorders or after bone marrow transplantation to achieve anti-viral control while mitigating uncontrolled inflammation.

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The UK Government's Vaccine Taskforce: strategy for protecting the UK and the world

Author: Kate Bingham

Publication date: 27 October 2020

Journal: The Lancet

DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32175-9

No vaccine in the history of medicine has been as eagerly anticipated as that to protect against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Vaccination is widely regarded as the only true exit strategy from the pandemic that is currently spreading globally.

The UK is at the forefront of a huge international effort to develop clinically safe and effective vaccines. The Vaccine Taskforce was the brainchild of Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK Government's chief scientific advisor, who saw the need for a dedicated, nimble private-sector team of experts embedded in the Government to drive forward the development of vaccines for the UK and internationally. The Vaccine Taskforce was set up under the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in May, 2020, and I was asked to chair the taskforce, reporting directly to the prime minister, and working alongside Deputy Chair Clive Dix. The Vaccine Taskforce aims to ensure that the UK population has access to vaccines as soon as possible, while working with partners to support equitable access for populations worldwide, whether rich or poor.

However, we do not know that we will ever have a vaccine at all. It is important to guard against complacency and over-optimism. The first generation of vaccines is likely to be imperfect, and we should be prepared that they might not prevent infection but rather reduce symptoms, and, even then, might not work for everyone or for long.

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Clinical Endpoints for Evaluating Efficacy in COVID-19 Vaccine Trials

Authors: Mehrotra DV et al

Publication date: 22 October 2020

Journal: Annals of Internal Medicine

DOI: 10.7326/M20-6169

Several vaccine candidates to protect against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection or coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have entered or will soon enter large-scale, phase 3, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials. To facilitate harmonized evaluation and comparison of the efficacy of these vaccines, a general set of clinical endpoints is proposed, along with considerations to guide the selection of the primary endpoints on the basis of clinical and statistical reasoning. The plausibility that vaccine protection against symptomatic COVID-19 could be accompanied by a shift toward more SARS-CoV-2 infections that are asymptomatic is highlighted, as well as the potential implications of such a shift.

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A global survey of potential acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine

Authors: Lazarus JV et al

Publication date: 20 October 2020

Journal: Nature Medicine

DOI: 10.1038/s41591-020-1124-9

Several coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines are currently in human trials. In June 2020, we surveyed 13,426 people in 19 countries to determine potential acceptance rates and factors influencing acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine. Of these, 71.5% of participants reported that they would be very or somewhat likely to take a COVID-19 vaccine, and 61.4% reported that they would accept their employer’s recommendation to do so. Differences in acceptance rates ranged from almost 90% (in China) to less than 55% (in Russia). Respondents reporting higher levels of trust in information from government sources were more likely to accept a vaccine and take their employer’s advice to do so.

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Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker

McGill University professor Nicole Basta and her team have created an interactive online COVID-19 vaccine tracker, that provides real-time updates on progress in developing a safe and effective vaccine.

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The Vaccine Tracker

COVID-19 or Coronavirus vaccine development stages and status

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Modeling COVID-19 scenarios for the United States

Authors: IHME COVID-19 Forecasting Team

Publication date: 23 October 2020

Journal: Nature Medicine

DOI: 10.1038/s41591-020-1132-9

We use COVID-19 case and mortality data from 1 February 2020 to 21 September 2020 and a deterministic SEIR (susceptible, exposed, infectious and recovered) compartmental framework to model possible trajectories of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections and the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions in the United States at the state level from 22 September 2020 through 28 February 2021. Using this SEIR model, and projections of critical driving covariates (pneumonia seasonality, mobility, testing rates and mask use per capita), we assessed scenarios of social distancing mandates and levels of mask use. Projections of current non-pharmaceutical intervention strategies by state—with social distancing mandates reinstated when a threshold of 8 deaths per million population is exceeded (reference scenario)—suggest that, cumulatively, 511,373 (469,578–578,347) lives could be lost to COVID-19 across the United States by 28 February 2021. We find that achieving universal mask use (95% mask use in public) could be sufficient to ameliorate the worst effects of epidemic resurgences in many states. Universal mask use could save an additional 129,574 (85,284–170,867) lives from September 22, 2020 through the end of February 2021, or an additional 95,814 (60,731–133,077) lives assuming a lesser adoption of mask wearing (85%), when compared to the reference scenario.

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The temporal association of introducing and lifting non-pharmaceutical interventions with the time-varying reproduction number (R) of SARS-CoV-2: a modelling study across 131 countries

Authors: You L PhD et al

Publication date: 22 October 2020

Journal: The Lancet Infectious Diseases

DOI: 10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30785-4


Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) were implemented by many countries to reduce the transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causal agent of COVID-19. A resurgence in COVID-19 cases has been reported in some countries that lifted some of these NPIs. We aimed to understand the association of introducing and lifting NPIs with the level of transmission of SARS-CoV-2, as measured by the time-varying reproduction number (R), from a broad perspective across 131 countries.


In this modelling study, we linked data on daily country-level estimates of R from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (London, UK) with data on country-specific policies on NPIs from the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, available between Jan 1 and July 20, 2020. We defined a phase as a time period when all NPIs remained the same, and we divided the timeline of each country into individual phases based on the status of NPIs. We calculated the R ratio as the ratio between the daily R of each phase and the R from the last day of the previous phase (ie, before the NPI status changed) as a measure of the association between NPI status and transmission of SARS-CoV-2. We then modelled the R ratio using a log-linear regression with introduction and relaxation of each NPI as independent variables for each day of the first 28 days after the change in the corresponding NPI. In an ad-hoc analysis, we estimated the effect of reintroducing multiple NPIs with the greatest effects, and in the observed sequence, to tackle the possible resurgence of SARS-CoV-2.


790 phases from 131 countries were included in the analysis. A decreasing trend over time in the R ratio was found following the introduction of school closure, workplace closure, public events ban, requirements to stay at home, and internal movement limits; the reduction in R ranged from 3% to 24% on day 28 following the introduction compared with the last day before introduction, although the reduction was significant only for public events ban (R ratio 0·76, 95% CI 0·58–1·00); for all other NPIs, the upper bound of the 95% CI was above 1. An increasing trend over time in the R ratio was found following the relaxation of school closure, bans on public events, bans on public gatherings of more than ten people, requirements to stay at home, and internal movement limits; the increase in R ranged from 11% to 25% on day 28 following the relaxation compared with the last day before relaxation, although the increase was significant only for school reopening (R ratio 1·24, 95% CI 1·00–1·52) and lifting bans on public gatherings of more than ten people (1·25, 1·03–1·51); for all other NPIs, the lower bound of the 95% CI was below 1. It took a median of 8 days (IQR 6–9) following the introduction of an NPI to observe 60% of the maximum reduction in R and even longer (17 days [14–20]) following relaxation to observe 60% of the maximum increase in R. In response to a possible resurgence of COVID-19, a control strategy of banning public events and public gatherings of more than ten people was estimated to reduce R, with an R ratio of 0·71 (95% CI 0·55–0·93) on day 28, decreasing to 0·62 (0·47–0·82) on day 28 if measures to close workplaces were added, 0·58 (0·41–0·81) if measures to close workplaces and internal movement restrictions were added, and 0·48 (0·32–0·71) if measures to close workplaces, internal movement restrictions, and requirements to stay at home were added.


Individual NPIs, including school closure, workplace closure, public events ban, ban on gatherings of more than ten people, requirements to stay at home, and internal movement limits, are associated with reduced transmission of SARS-CoV-2, but the effect of introducing and lifting these NPIs is delayed by 1–3 weeks, with this delay being longer when lifting NPIs. These findings provide additional evidence that can inform policy-maker decisions on the timing of introducing and lifting different NPIs, although R should be interpreted in the context of its known limitations.

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Government and Health Authorities


Race, Ethnicity, and Age Trends in Persons Who Died from COVID-19 — United States, May–August 2020

Publication date: 23 October 2020

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

During February 12–October 15, 2020, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic resulted in approximately 7,900,000 aggregated reported cases and approximately 216,000 deaths in the United States.* Among COVID-19–associated deaths reported to national case surveillance during February 12–May 18, persons aged ≥65 years and members of racial and ethnic minority groups were disproportionately represented (1). This report describes demographic and geographic trends in COVID-19–associated deaths reported to the National Vital Statistics System† (NVSS) during May 1–August 31, 2020, by 50 states and the District of Columbia. During this period, 114,411 COVID-19–associated deaths were reported. Overall, 78.2% of decedents were aged ≥65 years, and 53.3% were male; 51.3% were non-Hispanic White (White), 24.2% were Hispanic or Latino (Hispanic), and 18.7% were non-Hispanic Black (Black). The number of COVID-19–associated deaths decreased from 37,940 in May to 17,718 in June; subsequently, counts increased to 30,401 in July and declined to 28,352 in August. From May to August, the percentage distribution of COVID-19–associated deaths by U.S. Census region increased from 23.4% to 62.7% in the South and from 10.6% to 21.4% in the West. Over the same period, the percentage distribution of decedents who were Hispanic increased from 16.3% to 26.4%. COVID-19 remains a major public health threat regardless of age or race and ethnicity. Deaths continued to occur disproportionately among older persons and certain racial and ethnic minorities, particularly among Hispanic persons. These results can inform public health messaging and mitigation efforts focused on prevention and early detection of infection among disproportionately affected groups.

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Covid-19 and children

Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2020: Wave 1 follow up to the 2017 survey

Publication date: 22 October 2020

Source: NHS Digital

This is the first in a series of follow up reports to the Mental Health and Young People Survey (MHCYP) 2017, exploring the mental health of children and young people in July 2020, during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and changes since 2017. Experiences of family life, education and services, and worries and anxieties during the COVID-19 pandemic are also examined.

The sample for the Mental Health Survey for Children and Young People, 2020 (MHCYP 2020), wave 1 follow up was based on 3,570 children and young people who took part in the MHCYP 2017 survey, with both surveys also drawing on information collected from parents. Cross-sectional analyses are presented, addressing two primary aims:

Aim 1: Comparing mental health between 2017 and 2020 – the likelihood of a mental disorder has been assessed against completion of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) in both years in Topic 1 by various demographics.

Aim 2: Describing life during the COVID-19 pandemic - the report examines the circumstances and experiences of children and young people in July 2020 and the preceding months, covering:

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Media – Science related

SARS-CoV-2 pandemic

The SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic

Author: George Michael

Publication date: 27 October 2020

Source: Medium

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world at a horrific scale, and people are trying to form their own opinions — rightly so — on topics ranging from disease severity to government policy. However, the general public are not exposed to a consistent flow of reliable information, so many are suffering from fear, confusion, and isolation, exacerbated by extreme differences in opinion on how seriously any aspect of the pandemic should be taken. These are the problems that this report aims to address.

Given my lack of specialist experience regarding COVID-19, this report is not a personal analysis of the pandemic. Rather, it is a collection of information gathered from systematic reviews, peer-reviewed studies, expert analyses, and more, in an attempt to provide a reliable and transparent overview on the pandemic. Attempts were made to minimise the amount of original content, in order to maintain authenticity of information.

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Study Helps Explain Declines in Death Rates from COVID-19

Publication date: 23 October 2020

Source: NYU Langone Health

Fewer New Yorkers are dying from 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) than health experts had anticipated, a new study shows. Regional death rates have dropped from the highs seen at the start of the outbreak, partially due to a shift in the population contracting the disease toward those who are more resilient.

After New York became the epicenter for the pandemic in early March, with tens of thousands dying from COVID-19, experts had expected that the infection would remain as deadly in the following months.

Instead, a new investigation showed that by mid-August, the death rate in those hospitalized with coronavirus-related illness had dropped from 25.6 percentage points to about 7.6 percentage points. Led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the study showed that a younger, healthier group of people were getting infected and were arriving at the hospital with less severe symptoms than those infected in the spring.

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A new study suggests coronavirus antibodies fade over time – but how concerned should we be?

Author: Sheena Cruikshank

Publication date: 27 October 2020

Source: The Conversation

Newly released research suggests that levels of antibodies against the coronavirus have declined across the UK population since testing began. Having randomly sampled 365,000 people across the country, the React2 study – which is yet to be peer reviewed – estimates that 6% of the UK population had antibodies against the virus in late June, but that this had fallen to 4.4% by September.

If antibodies fade over time, how worried should we be? Does this mean we cannot be immune to COVID-19? To answer this question, we need first to consider what antibodies are and what they can tell us about immunity.

When we are infected, our immune system quickly responds to try and contain the threat and minimise the damage infection causes. This initial stage of immune reactivity is covered by immune cells known as innate cells that are resident in our tissues, which use a range of fairly generic strategies to both recognise and kill off the infection. But to truly deal with an infectious challenge, we need another part of our immune system – our lymphocytes.

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Coronavirus antibody prevalence falling in England, REACT study shows

Author: Justine Alford

Publication date: 27 October 2020

Source: Imperial College London

Tests on more than 365,000 people in England have shown that the antibody response to the virus that causes COVID-19 wanes over time.

Led by Imperial College London, analysis of finger-prick tests carried out at home between 20 June and 28 September found that the number of people testing positive dropped by 26.5% across the study period, from almost 6% to 4.4%.

The downward trend was observed in all areas of the country and age groups, but not in health workers, which could indicate repeated or higher initial exposure to the virus, the authors suggest. The decline was largest in people aged 75 and above compared to younger people, and also in people with suspected rather than confirmed infection, indicating that the antibody response varies by age and with the severity of illness.

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What is the role of T cells in COVID-19 infection? Why immunity is about more than antibodies

Authors: Annette Plüddemann, Jeffrey K. Aronson

Publication date: 19 Ocotber 2020

Source: Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine

  • CD4+ T cells help B cells to produce antibodies and help CD8+ T cells to kill virus-infected cells
  • One of the dominant cytokines produced by T cells is interferon gamma, a key player in controlling viral infection – see also [41]
  • Lymphopenia is a main feature of COVID-19 infection, affecting CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, and B cells, and is more pronounced in severely ill patients
  • T cell responses in severely ill patients may be impaired, over-activated, or inappropriate, and further research is required to elucidate this and inform treatment strategies
  • There is some evidence of cross-reactivity with seasonal/endemic coronaviruses
  • Emerging studies suggest that all or a majority of people with COVID-19 develop a strong and broad T cell response, both CD4 and CD8, and some have a memory phenotype, which bodes well for potential longer-term immunity
  • Understanding the roles of different subsets of T cells in protection or pathogenesis is crucial for preventing and treating COVID-19

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How obesity could create problems for a COVID vaccine

Author: Heidi Ledford

Publication date: 20 October 2020

Source: Nature

When Jesús Ojino Sosa-García looks out over the people being treated for COVID-19 in his hospital’s intensive-care unit, one feature stands out: “Obesity is the most important factor we see,” he says.

Sosa-García works at Hospital Médica Sur in Mexico City, which has been battling a COVID-19 outbreak for six months. “Every day, we receive patients,” he says. And many of those showing up with severe cases come from Mexico’s growing population of obese individuals — currently 36% of adults. Sosa-García and his colleagues checked the stats early in the pandemic and they were already indicating an imbalance: half of the 32 people admitted to his hospital’s intensive-care unit with severe COVID-19 before 3 May were obese1.

Sosa-García is optimistic that a coronavirus vaccine will arrive soon to dampen the pandemic. But for Mexico and many other countries with a burgeoning population of people with high body mass indices (BMIs), some researchers fear that a vaccine might not be the panacea Sosa-García is hoping for. Obesity correlates with a dulled immune response to COVID-19. And vaccines for a handful of other conditions often don’t work as well in obese people, suggesting that a shot for COVID-19 might not provide as much protection as researchers would like. “We worry about that,” says Donna Ryan, who has studied obesity at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Disease mitigations

The Year of Disguises

Author: Roger W Koops

Publication date: 16 October 2020

Source: American Institute for Economic Research

2020 is a year of disguises. Some examples include computer models/modelers disguised as “science/scientists,” Tyrants/Dictators/Totalitarians disguised as “elected officials,” propaganda machines disguised as “news sources,” brainwashing disguised as “information,” censorship disguised as “public health safeguard,” panic and fear disguised as “social responsibility.”

Even the virus itself has been disguised by humans as an “apocalypse.” But, the last part is not the doing of the virus, but the doings of a select number of humans who are responsible for many of the other disguises as well. And if you look at the totality of events in 2020, it is clear that the average citizen has been treated generally less than human, certainly not as adults in any case.

I believe we are in as great a crisis as a species as we have ever been. The crisis is not from some seasonal virus (which is a health issue), but it is from ourselves and what we have devolved into as a species (social, cultural, ideological issues).

I have debated with myself on how to approach the following essay. Under normal circumstances, it would be easy. But, the topic has been so warped and sensationalized into political and social hyperbole, it is difficult to get a handle on it. I could go at it strictly from a scientific perspective, but that would tune many people out.

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Social impacts

One in 10 young people lost their job during covid-19 pandemic

Publication date: 26 October 2020

Source: The London School of Economics and Political Science

More than one in 10 people aged 16 - 25 have lost their job, and just under six in 10 have seen their earnings fall since the coronavirus pandemic began, new research shows.

The study found young workers to be twice as likely to have lost their jobs compared to older employees and that employment and earnings losses are more pronounced for women, the self-employed and those who grew up in a poor family.

The survey, carried out by academics from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Exeter University, provides further evidence that young people are suffering substantial and sustained losses, not only to their employment, but also their education.

Part of a new report - Generation COVID and Social Mobility: Evidence and Policy - published today (Monday 26 October) by LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance (CEP), the report finds that just four in 10 school pupils received full-time schooling during April, with a quarter receiving no teaching at all. In early October only around six in 10 pupils were experiencing full-time teaching.

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Media – Reporting


CDC expands definition of who is a ‘close contact’ of an individual with covid-19

Author: Lena H Sun

Publication date: 22 October 2020

Source: The Washington Post

Federal health officials issued new guidance on Wednesday that greatly expands the pool of people considered at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus by changing the definition of who is a “close contact” of an infected individual.

The change by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is likely to have its biggest impact in schools, workplaces and other group settings where people are in contact with others for long periods of time. It also underscores the importance of mask-wearing to prevent spread of the virus, even as President Trump and his top coronavirus adviser continue to raise doubts about such guidance.

The CDC had previously defined a “close contact” as someone who spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of a confirmed coronavirus case. The updated guidance, which health departments rely on to conduct contact tracing, now defines a close contact as someone who was within six feet of an infected individual for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, according to a CDC statement Wednesday.

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How Covid Deaths Are Over-Counted

Author: Dr Clare Craig FRCPath

Publication date: 27 October 2020

Source: Lockdown Sceptics

The system for counting deaths from Covid is not working properly and we are over-counting Covid deaths. This can be fixed, easily, by improving cross-checking and retesting all alleged positive PCR test results. Accurate data is a basic prerequisite for good policy choices. The remedial steps needed are simple and relatively inexpensive. Central government should mandate them to be done immediately.

When trying to understand the impact of increased testing on case numbers we look to the percentage of tests reported as positive. In a similar way, it is important to double check other data points against each other, as percentages, to truly understand how the epidemic is progressing. Using this approach, it appears that we are over-counting deaths because there are not enough severely sick people from Covid to account for them. In other words, there are proportionately more Covid deaths per case and per hospital admission since the Summer. This paper explains this phenomenon and calls for proper scientific cross-checking to be instituted before a Covid outbreak is declared.

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Second wave

Trudeau says pandemic 'sucks' as COVID-19 compliance slips and cases spike

Author: John Paul Tasker

Publication date: 27 October 2020

Source: CBC

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he understands that Canadians are increasingly frustrated by "annoying" measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, but he's urging people to stay the course as cases continue to climb in some parts of the country.

Canada is in the grips of a second pandemic wave. Some provinces — notably Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec — are now seeing case counts larger than those reported in the spring, at the onset of the pandemic.

"This sucks, it really, really does," Trudeau told a COVID-19 press briefing this morning. "It's going to be a tough winter. It's easy for us to want to throw up our hands ... it's frustrating to have to go through this situation.

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Switzerland faces lack of hospital beds as coronavirus infections soar

Author: Helena Bachmann

Publication date: 26 October 2020

Source: The Local ch

As Covid-19 cases are rising at an alarming rate, intensive care units at some Swiss hospitals located in the most affected regions are reaching their saturation point.

In general, intensive care units (ICUs), where the most serious coronavirus cases are treated, have fewer beds than other hospital services, so they can become overcrowded quickly.

At the Centre Hospitalier du Valais Romand (CHVR) in Sion, 124 patients are hospitalised in the critical care unit and 10 in the ICU. The hospital is now at full capacity and can no longer take in Covid-related cases.

In fact, starting on October 26th, new patients will be sent to other hospitals in Valais and other cantons.

CHVR is also setting up a crisis unit to manage the overflow.

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Coronavirus: Oxford vaccine 'will be ready by Christmas', says professor leading project

Author: Shivali Best

Publication date: 26 October 2020

Source: MSN News

With coronavirus cases around the world now at over 43 million, scientists have been working around the clock to develop a vaccine.

A vaccine developed by researchers at Oxford University has been tipped as the front-runner, and now the professor leading the project claims it ‘will be ready by Christmas.’

Professor Adrian Hill, founder and director of the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, claims that the vaccine is to get approval ahead of Christmas so it can be used on medics and the elderly before the trial has finished.

The vaccine will then be rolled out to the rest of the UK from early 2021, according to Professor Hill.

According to the Daily Mail, while speaking online to members of Oxford's Magdalen College, Professor Hill said: “The initial licence would be for emergency use, not full approval.

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Tech Giants Google, Oracle to Monitor Americans Who Get COVID-19 Vaccine

Author: Whitney Webb

Publication date: 22 October 2020

Source: Children’s Health Defense

Last week, a rare media interview given by the Trump administration’s “Vaccine Czar” offered a brief glimpse into the inner workings of the extremely secretive Operation Warp Speed (OWS), the Trump administration’s “public-private partnership” for delivering a COVID-19 vaccine to 300 million Americans by next January. What was revealed should deeply unsettle all Americans.

During an interview with the Wall Street Journal published last Friday, the “captain” of OWS, career Big Pharma executive Moncef Slaoui, confirmed that the millions of Americans who are set to receive the project’s COVID-19 vaccine will be monitored via “incredibly precise … tracking systems” that will “ensure that patients each get two doses of the same vaccine and to monitor them for adverse health effects.” Slaoui also noted that tech giants Google and Oracle have been contracted as part of this “tracking system” but did not specify their exact roles beyond helping to “collect and track vaccine data.”

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Who Deserves Your Trust in the COVID Debate?

Author: Stacey Rudin

Publication date: 26 October 2020

Source: American Institute for Economic Research

Stoic philosopher Epictetus believed that honorable character and a life of wisdom begin with a clear understanding of one basic principle: “some things are within our control, and some things are not.” How we are perceived by others — our popularity — is ultimately outside our control; we should focus on character, not reputation, because “trying to control or change what we can’t only results in torment.” The year 2020 has revealed this to be true. Many Americans, especially affluent types, prioritize reputation over character, and it has indeed resulted in torment.

In the COVID debate, there is a mainstream, “popular” narrative, and a competing, “unpopular” narrative — a “fringe.” The former exploits the common, mediocre desire to be “popular.” Joining the movement is easy. It results in back-pats, validation, and requires no uncomfortable confrontations. This narrative states that it is impossible for humanity to survive the COVID19 pandemic without a vaccine, lockdowns, and masks, some combination of which will be required into the indefinite future. The narrative supports blaming others for “infecting you” with diseases, rather than encouraging personal responsibility for immune and general health.

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Melbourne lockdown lifted after zero new virus cases recorded

Publication date: 26 October 2020

Source: Medical Xpress

Australia's second-biggest city will this week exit its coronavirus lockdown following nearly four months under onerous restrictions, authorities announced Monday, after no new daily cases or deaths were recorded.

Stay-at-home orders for Melbourne's five million residents will be lifted from midnight Tuesday into Wednesday while restaurants, beauty salons and retail stores will be permitted to throw open their doors.

Melbourne and the surrounding Victoria state recorded the first 24-hour period without any new COVID-19 cases since June 8—before security bungles at quarantine hotels housing returned international travellers sparked a major outbreak in July.

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WHO Taps ‘Anti-Conspiracy’ Crusader to Sway Public Opinion on COVID Vaccine

Author: Jeremy Loffredo

Publication date: 23 October 2020

Source: Children’s Health Defense

An outspoken proponent of government-led tactics to influence public opinion on policy and to undermine the credibility of “conspiracy theorists” will lead the World Health Organization’s (WHO) efforts to encourage public acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine, Children’s Health Defense has learned.

Last week, WHO’s general director, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, tweeted that he was glad to speak with the organization’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Behavioural Insights and Sciences for Health to “discuss vaccine acceptance and uptake in the context of COVID-19.”

In his next tweet Ghebreyesus announced that Cass Sunstein, founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School, will chair the advisory group, which was created in July.

Sunstein was former President Barack Obama’s head of Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs where he was responsible for overseeing policies relating to information quality.

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How the MEAN psychologists got us to comply with coronavirus restrictions

Author: Gary Sidley

Publication date: 23 October 2020

Source: Coronababble


The British public’s widespread compliance with the Government’s draconian diktats has arguably been the most remarkable aspect of the coronavirus crisis. The unprecedented restrictions on our basic freedoms – in the form of lockdowns, travel bans and mandatory mask wearing – have been passively accepted by the large majority of people. Despite the lack of evidence for effectiveness of these extreme measures, and the growing recognition of their negative consequences, it seems most of us continue to submit to the ongoing restrictions on our lives. Why have we witnessed such capitulation?

A major contributor to the mass obedience of the British people is likely to have been the activities of government-employed psychologists working as part of the ‘Behavioural Insights Team’ (BIT). After outlining the structure and stated remit of the BIT, I will describe the strategies deployed by this group of psychological specialists to shape our behaviours in line with the Government’s public health approach to coronavirus. In particular, I will highlight the four main tactics used in their COVID-19 communication campaigns to ‘nudge’ us towards compliance: a focus on the MESSENGER, EGO, AFFECT and NORMS (or ‘MEAN’ as an acronym), providing specific examples to illustrate how these influencers were put to work so as to get us to obey the Government’s directives. Finally, the questionable ethics of resorting to these psychological interventions to promote compliance with an increasingly contested public health policy will be addressed. 

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NutraVideo: Zinc, vitamin D are key in COVID fight

Author: Danielle Masterson

Publication date: 26 October 2020

Source: Nutraingredients

The dietary supplement market has been flooded with new products, with an unprecedented demand in immune health. A recent Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN)-IPSOS survey found that vitamin D usage jumped 37% and zinc grew 17% amid the pandemic.

Best selling author and board certified internist Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, said these two nutrients are key in the battle against COVID-19.

Watch the video


A Covid vaccine will not be a panacea

Publication date: 27 October 2020

Source: The Telegraph

Is the Government being entirely straightforward about the prospects for a Covid vaccine? Interviewed on the BBC Today programme, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, did not discourage a hope that one might be available before the end of the year. He conceded that this was not his “central expectation”. Indeed, he went on to add: “The true answer is … we don’t know.”

Yet the Government’s coronavirus strategy depends entirely on the availability of a vaccine and the encouragement of a belief that it is just around the corner. This underpins public compliance with restrictions on personal liberties without which there would be greater pressure on the Government to seek an alternative approach.

Until a vaccine is available, lockdowns will continue. Given the damage they are causing to the economy and to other health conditions, it is clearly of critical importance to know when that might be.

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Brazilian Doctor Dies Participating in AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial

Author: Kate Raines

Publication date: 25 October 2020

Source: The Vaccine Reaction

A 28-year-old physician volunteer in Brazil, who was participating in a Phase 3 clinical trial of the experimental AZD1222 (formerly ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) for COVID-19 developed by AstraZeneca plc and Oxford University, died on Oct. 15, 2020. Early reports did not specify whether he had received the AZD1222 vaccine or a meningitis vaccine used as a “placebo.” It has since been reported that the man did receive the meningococcal vaccine used as a placebo in the trial instead of the experimental coronavirus vaccine, although no official confirmation has been released by AstraZeneca, which has cited privacy concerns for not making more information available to the public.1

The Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) released a statement saying, “according to national and international regulations on good clinical practices, data on clinical research volunteers must be kept confidential, in accordance with the principles of confidentiality, human dignity, and protection of participants.”2 However, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported that the victim was a physician working with COVID-19 patients at three hospitals in Brazil and died from complications arising from an infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That information has been verified by other sources and the deceased has been identified as Joao Pedro Feitosa of Rio de Janeiro.

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Germany prepares for 60 coronavirus vaccination centres

Publication date: 23 October 2020

Source: The Local de

German daily Bild said the federal Health Ministry has asked the country's 16 state governments to provide the addresses of potential vaccination centres by November 10th.

According to the report, a total of 60 centres are to be established nationwide. The vaccination centres are necessary to guarantee the effectiveness of the vaccine, the reports says. The vaccine will have to be kept cool at minus 78C, but many medical practices lack the necessary efficient cooling devices.

In a video conference involving health ministers at the beginning of the week, federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, of the Christian Democrats is reported to have said that the Mainz-based company BionTech is close to the approval of a vaccine.

When he was asked when he expected the first vaccinations to be administered, Spahn said in the round table: "That could happen before the end of the year," Bild reported.

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Covid-19 and BAME community


Author: Baroness Doreen Lawrence

Publication date: 27 October 2020

Source: The Labour Party

Covid-19 is having a disproportionate and devastating impact on ethnic minority communities. Not only are Black, Asian and minority ethnic people dying at

a disproportionate rate, they are also overexposed to the virus and more likely to suffer the economic consequences. Despite repeated warnings, the Government has failed to take sufficient action.

Covid-19 has thrived on inequalities that have long scarred British society. Black, Asian and minority ethnic people are more likely to work in frontline or shutdown sectors which have been overexposed to Covid-19, more likely to have co-morbidities which increase the risk of serious illness and more likely to face barriers to accessing healthcare. Black, Asian and minority ethnic people have also been subject to disgraceful racism as some have sought to blame different communities for the spread of the virus.

This virus has exposed the devastating impact of structural racism.We need immediate action to protect people this winter, but we must also fix the broken system that has left ethnic minority people so exposed.

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Social Impacts

Fears of 'two-tier' system as NHS waiting lists prompt more people to go private

Author: Jessica Murray

Publication date: 27 October 2020

Source: The Guardian

Concerns are growing that long NHS waiting times caused by the coronavirus crisis are exacerbating pre-existing health inequalities and creating a “two-tier” system, as more people turn to the private sector for quicker treatment.

As leading doctors warn mass cancellations of NHS operations in England are inevitable this winter after waiting times reached the highest levels on record this summer, data shows a rise in the number of people self-funding treatment or investing in private health insurance.

“Covid-19 has not impacted everyone equally, and there is clearly a risk that the backlog in routine hospital treatment is going to add to those inequalities if some people are able to get treatment faster because they’re able to pay,” said Tim Gardner, from the Health Foundation thinktank.

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Covid controls

Police given access to details of people told to self-isolate by UK government's system

Author: Kanishka Singh

Publication date: 17 October 2020

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation News

British police forces have been granted access to details of people who have been told to self-isolate under the government's 'test and trace' system, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said late on Saturday.

A spokesman for the department said it agreed with the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) that officers could have access on a case-by-case basis to information on whether a specific individual has been notified to self-isolate.

"The memorandum of understanding ensures that information is shared with appropriate safeguards and in accordance with the law. No testing or health data is shared in this process," the spokesman said in an emailed statement.

The development was reported earlier by Sky News, which also cited an NPCC statement saying police will continue encouraging voluntary compliance but will enforce regulations and issue fixed penalty notices (FPN) when needed.

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Communications in the Coronavirus Crisis: Lessons for the Second Wave

Authors: Rasmus Kelis Nielsen, Richard Fletcher, Antonis Kalogeropoulos and Felix M Simon

Publication date: 27 October 2020

Source: Reuters Institute

The UK has suffered through one of the worst coronavirus epidemics in the world, with more than 650,000 confirmed cases by mid-October, over 43,000 casualties across the country, and disadvantaged, marginalised, and vulnerable communities particularly hard hit.

Over the summer, the daily number of new cases and casualties was greatly reduced after a stringent lockdown in the spring, but the crisis’s often severe knock-on consequences for education, the economy, mental health, and other areas have caused growing concern, and the question of how to balance different priorities has become explicitly political and often controversial.

This represents a communications crisis as well as a public health crisis, and understanding the role of communications, news, and media in the handling of the epidemic itself as well as its wider social and political impact requires attention to how people navigate the crisis, something we have been investigating since March (Nielsen et al. 2020a). Our work has documented how the situation has changed dramatically in just a few months. After an initial surge in news use, news consumption in the UK has gradually returned to pre-crisis levels, news avoidance has grown,

and trust in key sources of COVID-19 news and information has declined (Nielsen et al. 2020b). Digital platforms, including social media, video sharing sites, messaging applications, and search engines have seen high levels of use throughout the crisis, and often promote official health communication, but have also had serious problems with misinformation, and few trust them for information about the coronavirus (Nielsen et al. 2020c). We have also seen a dramatic decline

in public trust in the UK government as a source of information about COVID-19 and a significant increase in the number of people who see the UK government itself as a source of potentially false or misleading information about the coronavirus (Fletcher et al. 2020a).

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