We were told that the toilet paper shortage was selfish panic buying – but it turned out that it was mostly just people buying more because being at home meant they needed more… not selfishness, not silliness, just the effect of toilet paper needs moving from some home and some business to mostly home…
This interesting (and short) article from Nautilus suggests we are collectively resilient, and that the pandemic has brought out a fundamental human quality – our willingness to work together and support each other.
Nautilus is an online science magazine, full of interesting ideas and information from scientists. It’s a subscription magazine, but you can read a couple of articles (of your choice) for free each month. You might like to subscribe, and I can recommend their email newsletter, which picks out some of the most fascinating articles.
The British Red Cross has a series of free resources for you and your children this spring.
Starting with first aid, kindness and the covid-19 outbreak, they go on to explore the role of the Red Cross in helping people in conflict and disaster situations, and invite young people to discover why humanitarianism is so important.
The proliferation of fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been labelled a dangerous “infodemic”. Fake news spreads faster and more easily today through the internet, social media and instant messaging. These messages may contain useless, incorrect or even harmful information and advice, which can hamper the public health response and add to social disorder and division.
Confusingly some fake news also contains a mixture of correct information, which makes it difficult to spot what is true and accurate. Fake news may also be shared by trusted friends and family, including those who are doctors and nurses. They might not have read the full story before sharing or just glanced over it. Before you decide to share, make sure to read stories properly and follow some checks to determine the accuracy.
If the story appears to claim a much higher level of certainty in its advice and arguments than other stories, this is questionable. People will be seeking certainty in a time of high uncertainty, anxiety and panic. So it is only natural to more readily accept information that resolves, reassures and provides easy solutions – unfortunately, often in a false way.
Similarly, if a story is more surprising or upsetting than other stories it is worth double-checking, as fake news will try to grab your attention by being more exaggerated than real stories.
What to look out for
Question the source. References have been made to “Taiwanese experts” or “Japanese doctors” or “Stanford University” during the outbreak. Check on official websites if stories are repeated there. If a source is “a friend of a friend”, this is a rumour unless you also know the person directly.
Check whether any organisation’s logo used in the message looks the same as on the official website.
Credible journalists and organisations are less likely to make repeated spelling and grammar mistakes. Also, anything written entirely in capital letters or containing a lot of exclamation marks should raise your suspicions.
Pretend social media accounts:
Some fake accounts mimic the real thing. For example, the unofficial Twitter handle @BBCNewsTonight, which was made to look like the legitimate @BBCNews account, shared a fake story about the actor Daniel Radcliffe testing positive for coronavirus. Media platforms try to remove or flag fake accounts and stories as well as verify real ones. Look out for what their policies are to try to do this.
Over-encouragement to share:
Be wary if the message presses you to share – this is how viral messaging works.
Use fact-checking websites:
Websites such as APFactCheck and Full Fact highlight common fake news stories. You can also use a search engine to look up the title of the article to see if it has been identified as fake news by the mainstream media.
Who to trust
The best sources to go to for health information about COVID-19 are your government health websites and the World Health Organization website. Primary sources are generally better than news articles.
Even government messaging and the mainstream media can get things wrong, but they are more trustworthy than unverified sources on social media and viral messaging. For instance, The Conversation is a more trusted source because all content is written by academics who are experts in their fields.
The effects can also be more serious than losing some cash. Iran has reported at least 44 people died from alcohol poisoning after drinking bootleg alcohol in a misguided attempt to cure COVID-19.
Unfortunately, the most basic and correct advice given so far does not offer a miracle or special insight. Wash your hands often (use hand sanitisers if you cannot), avoid touching your face, and sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow or a tissue (and throw it away in a bag-lined bin). Avoid crowds and public places, keep a sensible distance from people, and do not travel unless absolutely necessary. Now many governments are introducing measures including travel bans and quarantines that need to be followed to protect the health of everyone, especially the most vulnerable.
We can all get caught out. Think twice about the messages currently circulating and help guide your family and friends to decide what to trust.
The Reading Agency is alive and well and working from home!
Resources for readers, including children, and teachers. They will help you run a book club in lockdown, provide activities to do with your children, and suggest books for every taste and stage of reading prowess.
is a magazine of short articles written by experts – that is people affiliated to a university, a teaching hospital etc. In order to write, they have to state their affiliation, and disclose any funding or relationship that might affect their views.
They write for free, and they write in large numbers. Some of the most interesting conversations about the science of covid-19, the emotional, economic, political and environmental effects, and how to stay safe and sane – are happening here.
Unsurprisingly, these experts don’t always agree!
But they tend to the sane, thoughtful, and knowledgeable.
At a time when many ‘celebrities’ seem to think their role is to spread the latest gossip/rumour/nonsense, it’s good to listen in on experts sharing knowledge and ideas, changing their minds (!), and learning from each other.
I would say that the comments range from the extremely thoughtful and enlightening to the usual trolls (who for some reason think their role in life is to be as annoying as possible), but that’s comments for you. Take them with a big pinch of salt 🙂
EPIDEMIC is a new, twice-weekly podcast on the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19). Hear from some of the world’s leading infectious disease and public health experts. We’ll help you understand the latest science, the bigger context, and bring you diverse angles—from history and anthropology to politics and economics—depth and texture you won’t get elsewhere.
Hosted by Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist who has worked on tuberculosis and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, and was an Ebola worker during the West African epidemic. And co-hosted by Ron Klain, the U.S. Ebola czar from 2014 to 2015.
The COVID-19 pandemic may well be the defining moment of our times. Our lives have changed irrevocably. We need to understand the science so we can care for ourselves, our families, and our communities. And we need voices of reason to help us make sense of it all. “
“In the pod for this week are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet and Graham Lawton. Also, the poet laureate Simon Armitage reads a poem written in response to the coronavirus crisis, called Lockdown. We discuss when you are likely to be at the peak of infection, whether it is possible to be infected twice, and why the coronavirus doesn’t seem to be affected much by heat and humidity. We also offer our tips for maintaining a healthy mental state during lockdown.”