Fighting an epidemic of misinformation: The importance of science and learning in dealing with coronavirus
Ever since the modern science of epidemiology emerged in the 19th century, misinformation has never been far behind. It took decades for the disease modelling of cholera outbreaks by John Snow, one of the innovators in the field, to be accepted. 150 years on, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation and misrepresentation was as prevalent as ever. Faced with innumerable sources of information, it can be difficult for people to distinguish fact from fiction at a time when, in the absence of a vaccine, information and public health measures were the only tools available to stop COVID-19 transmission. The upshot is that evidence-based science and expert experience in responding to pandemics are critical. To this end, in 2019, just weeks before reports of the first cases of COVID-19 emerged, the Jameel Institute at Imperial College in London was setup to rapidly respond to emergencies including pandemics, extreme climate events and natural and humanitarian disasters.