What have we learned from the first COVID wave?

TUE, JUL 20, 2021 (59:38)

As the latest hybrids continue to reveal themselves, COVID-19 has proved to be the biggest global public health and economic challenge in history. Although it has posed the same threat across the globe, countries have responded very differently and some are faring better than others.

UCLA historian Peter Baldwin has followed how various countries have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some clearly faring much better than others. He is joined for this conversation by epidemiologist William P. Hanage, researching the evolution of viruses at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University.

His recent book, “Fighting The First Wave: How the Coronavirus was tackled so differently across the globe,” offers examples of how nations responded to the crisis based upon the political tools available - and how firmly authorities could order citizens’ lives and how willingly the strict rules would be obeyed.

In Asia, nations quarantined the infected and their contacts. In the Americas and Europe, they shut down their economies, hoping to squelch the spread of the virus. In some countries, like England, there were fines for disobeying lockdown limits. Others, above all Sweden, responded with a light touch, putting their faith in social consensus over coercion. Whether citizens would follow their leaders’ requests and how soon they would tire of their demands were crucial to their hopes of taming the pandemic.

The story of how different countries have tackled this problem is still evolving, since the publication of this book in April. Some have now changed strategy due to recent surges in the Delta variant in Australia, Canada, Europe and elsewhere.

+ BIO: William P. Hanage

William Hanage is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology in the department of Epidemiology, and a faculty member in the T.H. Chan School’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. He employs a mix of theoretical and laboratory work to research the evolution and epidemiology of infectious disease. Hanage did post his doctoral study at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London, before being awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship.

Prior to joining the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, Hanage was a Reader in the department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London. There he worked extensively developing multilocus sequence typing (MLST; www.mlst.net) and analysis (MLSA) for the study of bacterial pathogens and species, as well as means of analyzing data developed using this method. He is particularly interested in using an evolutionary framework such as methods derived from population genetics to inform epidemiology. In 2012 he received the Fleming Prize for research in Microbiology and was the recipient of a 2012 ICAAC Young Investigator Award from the American Society for Microbiology.

Find an up-to-date list of Hanage’s research publications in Pubmed.

+ BIO: Peter Baldwin

Peter Baldwin is a Professor of Comparative History at UCLA. He has written books on a variety of topics including 19th century European public health policies and the global response to AIDS.

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