Category Archives: Medicine

Journal of an American plague year

MOST of the books written about Covid-19 to date have been journalistic. They did the essential job of capturing the pandemic while we were living through it, but they lacked distance. Now, with the benefit of hindsight and a great deal more data, come the first of the histories. Early out of the starting blocks is Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University who has made a speciality of what he calls the “social autopsy” of disaster…

K. Kendall from Portland, OR, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

This article first appeared in New Statesman online on 26 February 2024, and in the subsequent print edition. To continue reading, click here.

The secret police have a file on you. Do you want to see it?

IN East Germany, during the communist period, people would sometimes join a queue on the basis that if others were waiting, there must be something worth having at the end of it. Siegfried Wittenburg, whose images accompany this article, photographed this waiting-for-I-know-not-what in his home town of Rostock. It was safer to take photos than to criticise the regime in words, but only just…

A sea of mud between apartment blocks whenever it rained. Rostock, East Germany, 1981. Photograph: Siegfried Wittenburg

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 28 November 2022. To continue reading, click here.

Angela Rasmussen on Covid’s origins

ANGELA Rasmussen studies the interactions between hosts and pathogens and how they shape disease. Before the pandemic, she worked on the emerging viruses that cause Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), Ebola, dengue and avian flu. Then, when Covid-19 erupted, the American virologist, who works at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, was drawn into the debate over where it came from. She has been among the most vocal scientists on Twitter defending a “natural” origin, as opposed to a lab leak. Last month, she and 17 co-authors published findings in Science that they feel should silence all rational critics on the question…

Angela Rasmussen

This article first appeared in The Observer on 14 August 2022. To continue reading, click here.

Bill Gates on the pandemic

IN 2015, the American technologist and philanthropist Bill Gates warned that humanity wasn’t ready for a pandemic. Seven years on, as the world emerges (hopefully) from a pandemic for which it wasn’t ready, he thinks we have it within our power to make sure this one was the last. There will be more disease outbreaks, but we now possess the tools and the knowledge to prevent them from becoming global catastrophes…

This article first appeared in the New Statesman on 4 May 2022. To continue reading, click here:

Bill Gates on the pandemic: a misplaced faith in innovation

From zero to hero

IT was the alt-history, the policy that didn’t get enacted. No-Covid, zero-Covid or elimination aimed to stamp out community transmission of Covid-19 in a given area, rather than just reduce it to “manageable” levels. Most of the world eschewed it, and it got bad press from the start. Only autocratic regimes could pull it off, one mantra went. Countries like China and ah, New Zealand and, oops, that notorious police state Davis in California…

University of California Davis

This article first appeared in The Guardian on 28 March 2022. To continue reading, click here.