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Informing the public debate on COVID-19

Academics from across the Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy are helping us all better understand the huge societal shifts created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feeling alert? Where the UK government’s new coronavirus campaign went wrong

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Dr Julia Pearce, from the Department of War Studies, said criticism of the latest advice to Stay Alert illustrates some of the well-established principles of effective risk and crisis communications.

Writing in The Conversation, she explained that increasing people’s perception of a threat can encourage them to act. However, it can be counterproductive as restrictions are eased. She said governments need to work with others to build consensus and be transparent about the reasons for changes to their advice, if they are to maintain public trust.

As well as clear rationale, focus should be on the effectiveness of a recommended action and on whether structures are in place so people can follow it.

The important role of social scientists during the COVID-19 pandemic


Social scientists have an important role to play as we consider economics and epidemiology during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Professor Jonathan Portes.

In an article for the Campaign for Social Science, Professor Portes looked at the make up of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) as well as what prominent commentators are saying about whether health or economic issues should be at the forefront of decision-making.

He suggested input on from sociologists and experts on public opinion, as well as virologists and statisticians, would be helpful to fully consider the economic implications, policy responses and public behaviours.

In a Guardian comment piece, he also challenged the theory that a fall in GDP translates into a fall in life expectancy. He said that overall a recession can actually lead to people living longer as, while suicides go up, other causes of death, such as road accidents and alcohol-related disease, fall. In another article he said normal rules do not apply in this current pandemic, so we should be bailing out private companies, as well as increasing national debt to avoid turning a recession into a depression.

UK still staying home and even coming to terms with lockdown

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Research conducted by the Policy Institute in partnership with Ipsos MORI found that the public claim to be sticking to the “stay at home” advice to an extraordinary degree, even after the government relaxed the rules, reflecting their real caution at lifting restrictions and continued focus on the health impacts over effects on the economy and education.

Professor Bobby Duffy, Director of the Policy Institute, said: “The UK government’s advice may have shifted to ‘stay alert’, but it’s the ‘stay at home’ message that the public are continuing to follow. That four in ten people did not leave their home for five or more of the previous seven days, with one in seven not leaving their home at all, indicates the seriousness with which the public are still treating the COVID-19 crisis."

The findings were widely covered by UK media. Read more of the findings.

Half a billion more people in developing countries pushed into poverty

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Professor Andy Sumner and Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez, from the Department of International Development, have carried out new research which revealed up to half a billion more people in developing countries could be pushed into poverty by the pandemic. Their research, conducted with colleague Christopher Hoy of the Australian National University, was published by UNU-WIDER and featured in a report by Oxfam calling for global action. The story was widely covered by media including The Guardian, BBC, Huffington Post and the Sydney Morning Herald.



Go carefully on relaxing lockdown as majority put health before wealth, new research finds


A cautious approach is needed to avoid polarising public opinion and damaging the chances of compliance with new guidelines, academics from the Department of Political Economy have warned.

Professor Shaun Hargreaves-Heap, Dr Christel Koop, Dr Konstantinos Matakos, Asli Unan, and Nina Weber found that in a survey of UK and US residents, 74 per cent of Britons showing a preference for outcomes that placed health ahead of financial considerations.

However, the findings also show that the strength of that preference will diminish when the economic consequences of lockdown measures become more severe, with “important policy implications” for officials in both nations as a result.

China and the WHO inquiry, plus warnings on divisive language

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Professor Kerry Brown, Director of the Lau China Institute at King’s, said China’s support of a World Health Organisation-led investigation after the pandemic is over reflects its desire to avoid further isolation, but still have global relationships on its own terms.

Professor Brown, was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight, after the US accused the World Health Organisation of failing to do its job over the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an article in the South China Morning Post he also commented on divisive language used by some UK politicians that could affect British-Chinese relations, warning it could do much harm and stoke racial tensions.

Covid-19 and why state resilience in the United Kingdom needs to be strengthened


Rod Thornton of the Defence Studies Department, says the UK’s response to COVID-19 has shown the weakness of the state’s resilience system. He says the shortages of basic medical items demonstrate a system that is not ready for times of extreme duress, which is why the military is stepping in. He calls for the state’s resilience system to be strengthened.

Prepare for the next pandemic now, Government urged

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A new report has examined what lessons can be learnt from East Asia to prevent and manage the next pandemic.

Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Reader in International Relations, and colleagues make a series of urgent recommendations for the Government so the UK can be better prepared for a future outbreak, which they say is only a matter of time.

What Coronavirus means for politics and policy


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The Policy Institute has published a series of experts analysis pieces on a whole range of issues around the COVID-19 pandemic, including homelessness, psychology, global medicine production, the economic effects and how it could change the nature of government.


The lack of constitutional protections in the new Coronavirus legislation


Dr Andrew Blick, of the School of Politics and Economics, has argued that the new emergency legislation introduced by the Government to deal with the pandemic has weaker constitutional protection that the existing law which could have been used.

Testing capacity: State capacity and COVID-19 testing

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Robyn Klingler-Vidra and colleagues have used emerging research from Viet Nam to argue that states are the ultimate convener and mobilsers during pandemic responses. The country has made headlines for responding to the outbreak efficiently, with limited resources, committed leadership and an entrepreneurial-spirited society. They outline how the state has mobilised the army, created compulsory quarantine centres, organised mass surveillance, used social media and mobile phones to keep citizens informed, has a public database of all people infected with the virus and was one of the first countries to develop affordable test kits and export them to Europe.

Coronavirus: How the Saudi-led blockade prepared Qatar for the pandemic

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Dr Andreas Krieg, of the School of Security Studies and a fellow at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, has outlined how Qatar has proved resilient in the face of COVID-19 because of lessons learned from being subject to air, land and sea blockades by its neighbours for nearly three years. It is benefiting now from having learned how to weather a storm, diversify its supply chains, localise supplies where necessary and build up strategic reserves.



In this story

Andy  Sumner

Andy Sumner

Professor of International Development FAcSS FRSA

Eduardo  Ortiz-Juarez

Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez

Lecturer in Development Economics

Jonathan  Portes

Jonathan Portes

Professor of Economics and Public Policy

Andrew  Blick

Andrew Blick

Head of the Department of Political Economy and Professor of Politics and Contemporary History

Robyn Klingler-Vidra

Robyn Klingler-Vidra

Reader in Entrepreneurship & Sustainability

Andreas Krieg

Andreas Krieg

Senior Lecturer School of Security Studies

Rod Thornton

Rod Thornton

Senior Lecturer in Defence Studies Education

Kerry  Brown

Kerry Brown

Director, Lau China Institute

Bobby Duffy

Bobby Duffy


Julia Pearce

Julia Pearce

Reader in Social Psychology & Security Studies

Shaun  Hargreaves Heap

Shaun Hargreaves Heap

Professor of Political Economy

Christel  Koop

Christel Koop

Professor of Political Economy

Konstantinos  Matakos

Konstantinos Matakos

Professor of Economics

Ramon Pacheco Pardo

Ramon Pacheco Pardo

Head of the Department of European & International Studies and Professor of International Relations

Making sense of the impact on society

Across society, each and every one of us are experiencing unprecedented changes to all aspects of our daily lives. Using their expertise, our researchers are working tirelessly to assess and…

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