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An illustration of the coronavirus by the US CDC ;

King's contributes to pandemic response

Staff and students from across the King’s community are supporting efforts to combat the novel coronavirus outbreak. From innovating medical equipment and expert analysis, to explorations of the pandemic's cultural consequences, King's is at the forefront of the response.

A prototype ventilator

King’s academics are collaborating with the University of Oxford, rapidly developing a prototype ventilator in response to the UK government’s call to meet increased demand for respiratory support equipment. The team, including Professor Sebastian Ourselin, Dr Federico Formenti, Professor Prashant Jha and Dr Christos Bergeles, are also using King’s workshops to manufacture and 3D print bespoke components.  

Find out more about the project, ‘Oxvent’, here.

 

Supporting the elderly

Dr Claire Steves interviewed for ITV with a model of human lungs in background

Dr Claire Steves is a geriatrician treating older people with coronavirus. She appeared on ITV's Tonight, discussing why coronavirus particularly impacts the elderly.

One of her top tips for supporting the mental health of those socially isolating was to remain social where possible. She said: 'We know that social isolation is not good for mental health. The advice is to isolate socially! If you are not already - get online, get access to a smart phone. Make sure you call your friends and neighbours- they will be keen to help! They might also need you. Now is a time for connecting with each other not physically, but mentally and we are lucky to have the technology to do it. Don’t be scared - give it a go.'

'This is not "panic"'

Amid claims that the British public were panic-buying toilet roll, tinned foods and dried pasta, Professor Sir Simon Wessely argued that the behaviour was a rational preparation for the increasingly likely period of self-isolation in the Financial Times.

Stocking up on necessities is not panicking; it is a rational and appropriate response. I myself have bought enough loo paper, dog food and red wine to see the family through.– Professor Sir Simon Wessely in the Financial Times

Professor Wessely, who chairs the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emergency Preparedness and Response, further advised on the best approaches to communicating with the public, advocating for expert analysis in the media as soon as possible.

A woman in a pink hoody grasps several loo rolls in her folded arms

Professor Wessely also contributed to a new paper, lead authored by Rebecca Webster, with academics and students from King's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, exploring strategies for improving adherence to quarantine. The main recommendations were:

  • Public health officials providing clear rationale and information about quarantine
  • Encouraging altruistic behaviour
  • Increasing the perceived benefit of engaging in quarantine for public health
  • Providing sufficient supplies of food medicine and other essentials

Learning from history

Britain has a tradition of cold calculation. Previous governments have displayed a willingness to preside over catastrophic losses of life, and an unwillingness to over-invest in expensive (and potentially unnecessary) defences.– David Edgerton, Hans Rausing Professor of the History of Science and Technology, in The Guardian

Looking to history, Professor David Edgerton explored why the UK government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak initially differed from that of WHO and many other European nation-states. Taking the UK government’s response to WW2 and potential nuclear war in the 1950s, he analysed the utilitarian balance of economic cost against protecting British citizens in The Guardian.

In 1914, upon purchasing outright control of the Detroit hospital that would ultimately bear his name, Henry Ford declared the purpose of his hospital to be its eventual eradication– Dr Caitjan Gainty, Lecturer in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, in The Times

Dr Caitjan Gainty wrote for The Times, exploring how the current adoption of the rhetoric of war in combating the coronavirus pandemic has originated in twentieth century notions of healthcare.

International Efforts

Professor Kenji Shibuya, Director of the Institute for Population Health, is a senior adviser to the Director General of the World Health Organisation. He has been analysing the Japanese government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

'Potentially, there will be a surge of new cases if Japan is not successful in containment, which I think will happen,’ he said. ‘Japan is not yet at the level of what Italy is experiencing in terms of outbreak phase, but that gives us a very important lesson - we have to be prepared.’

Exploring the Indian response to 'pandemic preparedness', Dr Sridhar Venkatapuram advocated for a greater international perspective in The Indian Express.

Infectious Fiction

A black and white illustration of the 1348 Plague of Florence as described in Boccaccio's Decameron

Etching by L. Sabatelli, 'The Plague of Florence in 1348, as described in Boccaccio's Decameron'. From Wellcome Images (CC BY 4.0).

Dr Jon Day explored the fascination of pandemic and infection in fiction for the Financial Times, from Boccaccio's 'Decameron' to H.G. Wells' 'War of the Worlds'.

He suggests that our fascination with novels about contagion lies in their use as a proxy for 'all the other, ungraspable terrors that keep us awake at night, terrors which only become more frightening when they cannot be written down'.

Politics

Disputes and conspiracies

Chinese officials and US politicians have been accused of promoting unverified theories about the origins and nature of the COVID-19 outbreak. Professor Kerry Brown, director of King's Lau China Institute, said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian's comments were trying to 'wind up those that wind you up', but risked a backlash.

In the South China Morning Post, he commented: 'It is indicative of the very defensive, often counterproductive and heavy-handed Chinese diplomacy more generally at the moment – high on strategic content, low on any real signs of emotional intelligence.'

The economic cost

Do whatever it takes – and whatever it costs – and do it now, in the interests both of our health and our collective wealth.– Jonathan Portes, Professor of Economics and Public Policy

Despite arguments that measures to limit the spread of coronavirus are harming the economy, Professor Jonathan Portes suggests that confidence is the primary requirement of economic stability, making containing the spread of disease the primary solution to stimulating spending and investment. Read more in his op-ed for The Guardian.

What about Brexit?

Professor Anand Menon appeared for the U.K. Parliament’s Future Relationship with the EU Committee, and suggested that 'this pandemic means that the case for an extension to the transition becomes much, much stronger'. Read more on the story on Bloomberg.com.

In this story

Christos  Bergeles

Christos Bergeles

Senior Lecturer

Jon Day

Jon Day

Lecturer in English

David Edgerton

David Edgerton

Hans Rausing Professor of the History of Science and Technology and Professor of Modern British History

Federico  Formenti

Federico Formenti

Senior Lecturer

Caitjan Gainty

Caitjan Gainty

Lecturer in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Prashant Jha

Prashant Jha

Head of Affordable Medical Technologies

Sebastien Ourselin

Sebastien Ourselin

Head of School, School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences

Tim Spector

Tim Spector

Head of Department, Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology

Claire  Steves

Claire Steves

Senior Clinical Lecturer

Rebecca Webster

Rebecca Webster

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Simon Wessely

Simon Wessely

Professor of Psychological Medicine

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