COVID-19 in 2021

Seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still unclear when life might return to some semblance of normal. 

Professor Gabriel Leung, an infectious disease epidemiologist and dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, believes we may only be “at the halfway mark of this very, very long marathon.”

In our latest webinar, ICFJ Director of Community Engagement Stella Roque discussed with Leung what we can expect in the coming months, including the effects of cold weather on the virus, possible upcoming vaccines and government efforts to reopen economies.  

His topline advice for journalists? “Report good science. Let science lead the way. The only exit from COVID is science and I think that we all have our parts to play,” said Leung. “[Scientists] go and seek truth through what we know best, and that is different scientific methods. [Journalists] go and seek the truth — or reveal the truth — through covering good science.” 

Below are more key quotes from Leung:

On winter weather and COVID-19

  • I think what we’re seeing in Europe and in North America is that as these Northern Hemisphere countries are going into the winter months, you are seeing what we call “seasonal forcing.” That is, the seasonal factors of temperature and humidity giving viruses generally, but including SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — a little bit more activity, either by being more viable for a slightly longer period of time on surfaces or making it easier to spread.
  •  You see [seasonal forcing] with a lot of respiratory viruses and that’s why we see quite a bit of activity, usually for influenza, but also for example, with RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and indeed the four seasonal human coronaviruses.

On the differences between COVID-19 and SARS

  • I think that we need to stop comparing different epidemics or different outbreaks because they are very unique and other than the name and the species itself — that both are coronaviruses — they have very little resemblance to one another. I think that it probably misleads more than it actually adds value.
  • SARS had recorded a global case count in total of just under 9,000. In the U.S. alone, in a day, you probably get four times that number [with COVID-19]. 

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by Chanté Russell, International Journalists’ Network

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