On pandemic time

LAST week, 15 volunteers descended into a cave in south west France, where they will remain for 40 days and 40 nights, without sunlight or watches, in an experiment designed to probe the dislocation in time that has characterised life with Covid…

This article first appeared in The Telegraph on 23 March 2021. To continue reading, click here.

Memorialising Covid

JUST over two years ago, my friend Janet came over to commiserate with my husband, whose leg was in plaster after a road accident. We immediately noticed a change in her. This sharp, funny woman in her mid-60s, who had nothing good to say about men (with the exception of her three beloved sons, whom she had raised almost single-handedly) had softened…

Artist’s impression for World Memorial to the Pandemic in Montevideo, Uruguay. Photograph: GómezPlatero

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 18 March 2021. To continue reading, click here.

 

The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson – review

ONE of the most striking passages in Walter Isaacson’s new book comes towards the end. It is 2019 and a scientific meeting is under way at the famous Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory in New York State, but James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, is banned from it because of the racist and scientifically unfounded views he has expressed on intelligence. Isaacson, who is to interview Watson, therefore has to make his way to the house on the nearby campus that the scientist has been allowed to keep. When the conversation sails dangerously close to the race issue, someone shouts from the kitchen: “If you are going to let him say these things, then I am going to have to ask you to leave.” The 91-year-old Watson shrugs and changes tack…

Walter Isaacson

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 11 March 2021. To continue reading, click here.

How elimination versus suppression became Covid’s cold war

A year ago, when the World Health Organization published a report showing that China had shut down a highly contagious virus in a city of 11 million people, epidemiologist Michael Baker assumed that the international body would advise the rest of the world to follow China’s example. When to his amazement it didn’t, he decided that New Zealand (population 5 million) should go its own way, and started lobbying the government to pursue an elimination strategy…

Wellington, New Zealand

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 3 March 2021. To continue reading, click here.

 

What can we learn from Africa’s experience of Covid?

AS Africa emerges from its second wave of Covid-19, one thing is clear: having officially clocked up more than 3.8m cases and more than 100,000 deaths, it hasn’t been spared. But the death toll is still lower than experts predicted when the first cases were reported in Egypt just over a year ago. The relative youth of African populations compared with those in the global north – while a major contributing factor – may not entirely explain the discrepancy. So what is really going on in Africa, and what does that continent’s experience of Covid-19 teach us about the disease and ourselves…?

A family prepares a gravestone during the pandemic, South Africa

This article first appeared in The Observer on 28 February 2021. To continue reading, click here.

 

writer & journalist