A regular Cosmos digest of coronavirus disease science, data, reporting and optimism.
Cases confirmed worldwide by national authorities stand at 414,179 – 40,712 of them reported in the preceding 24 hours. 18,440 deaths have been recorded. (Source: WHO Situation Report 65; at 10:00 CET on Wednesday 25 March).
Johns Hopkins University’s Center of Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) reported (at 15:32 AEST on Thursday 26 March) 471,518 confirmed cases and 21,293 deaths.
At 15:00 AEST on Wednesday 25 March
Nationwide, confirmed cases stand at 2423, a rise of 287 in 24 hours. Eight deaths have been recorded. More than 169,000 tests have been conducted.
ACT 44 cases (first case reported 12 March); NSW 1029 (20 March); NT 5 (20 March); Qld 443 (29 January); SA 197 (2 February); Tas 34 (2 March); Vic 466 (25 January); WA 205 (21 February).
With accelerated work on multiple issues in most countries around the world, research into COVID-19 is a science watcher’s best dream – or, given the volume of work being produced, worst nightmare. The range and scope of inquiry is spellbinding. Spreading over it is a growing body of thought about how science should behave in the face of the pandemic, and what it all means.
The race to produce a vaccine is of such scope that, argues Seth Berkley, we need global focus to maximise success – a Manhattan Project of the times. Berkley – an epidemiologist and CEO of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance – will present a TED talk about work on a coronavirus vaccine in the next day.
While the push for a vaccine continues apace in several countries, there are hundreds of drug studies underway. In spite of the buzz around some, none offers a cure.
Moving with unprecedented speed, researchers are harvesting information for informed discussion on a range of medical and public health matters. In the epidemiology sphere, work is considering how control measures on travel have an effect on spreading the virus, while neonatologists can consider a study of 33 neonates born to COVID-19-positive mothers in Wuhan.
Evolutionary virologist Edward Holmes, from the University of Sydney, is a fine exemplar of the pace and fury of COVID-19 work. Holmes has been working closely with scientists in China and around the world to unlock the genetic code of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19. Already this year, he has co-authored four papers on the novel coronavirus, including two of the earliest descriptions of the virus (published in Nature and The Lancet), and this week he publishes two more. One – also in Nature – identifies a similar coronavirus to the one now infecting humans in the Malayan pangolin population of southern China.
Data modelling extends to almost every scenario imaginable prompted by COVID-19, and cooperation – making content and findings freely available – is critical. Many organisations have affirmed their commitment to a 2016 statement on data sharing in public health emergencies by agreeing to share COVID-19 data and findings.
A little further off-beat, Nautilus took the time to consider how aerial-combat theory might help fight the virus. If nothing else, it provided an introduction to the OODA loop: Observation, Orientation, Decision, and Action (repeat).
In Australia, the fabulous Juliette O’Brien is the production drive behind covid19data.com.au, with help from a collective of talented collaborators. The graphics they’re generating are sharp and easy to understand – just the ticket.
Text? Video? Tele-conferenced meetings – and lunches and dinners? (What next? Given the ban on gatherings for weddings and funerals we’re thinking that livestreamed key life events will soon become the norm.) It’s a good idea to get across the concept and practice of “co-watching” as soon as possible.
If you’re not familiar with Shaun of the dead or Hot Fuzz, we’d recommend them for a self-isolation movie afternoon. Creators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are keeping their sense of humour through the apocalypse.
Not quite is funny as a report out of South Australia about the development of a “pandemic drone”. Apparently this nifty little UAV will be fitted with sensors and cameras that can monitor temperature, heart and respiratory rates, and detect people sneezing and coughing in various sorts of public spaces.
And finally from Hobart, Tasmania: a pandemic riff on a favourite children’s book has led to a new kind of neighbourhood treasure hunt. Surely there are a few dozen more versions of this to develop over the coming months…