Covid-19 will change us in many ways, says UKZN war room specialist

A UKZN seminar series has been moved online in the face of the COVID-19 epidemic. IT was a logical step for UKZN Pro Vice-Chancellor for Big Data and Informatics, Professor Francesco Petruccione, to turn to the online world to continue with his monthly data@breakfast seminar series in a time of national Covid-19 lockdown.

April 15, 2020

KRISP Data Breakfast piece at Berea News, Covid-19 will change us in many ways, says UKZN war room specialist, 14 April 2020

With the use of the online 'Zoom' webinar tool, some 130 participants - each sitting in the comfort of their own home during South Africa's national lockdown - tuned in ato listen to a talk presented by UKZN Covid-19 war room member, Dr Richard Lessells.

Lessells's talk tackled the issue of responding to the Covid-19 epidemic, and provided both a local and global perspective.

Lessells, an infectious disease specialist based at UKZN's Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP), is currently deployed to the UKZN Covid-19 war room and is supporting the local response to the epidemic.

'Covid-19 is a remarkable epidemic that is going to change us fundamentally in many ways, including how we work as academics. News first came out of a cluster of people with undiagnosed pneumonia in Wuhan, China, on ProMED on 30 December 2019. In just three months we have reached the half a million mark of diagnosed infections worldwide, and the epicentre has shifted from China to Europe to the USA. Such a pandemic was something we as epidemiologists were aware could happen at some stage. As countries we were prepared but at different levels. Countries expected to have coped have struggled,' said Lessells.

Lessells's presentation provided a clear and cogent overview of the spread of Covid-19 around the world, the trajectory that the disease has followed in different countries, and the positive impact early testing and quarantine has had on the steepness of the infection curve.

UKZN's Covid-19 war room efforts have been supported by a big data consortium led by Petruccione, which provides daily statistical updates to track the behaviour of the epidemic in South Africa.

'I am very happy that we have managed to continue with the tradition of data@breakfast in these challenging times. It is ironic that we just needed a tiny little virus to accelerate our use of the tools of the Fourth Industrial Revolution!' said Petruccione.

For a video recording of Dr Lessells's talk, visit:

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KRISP and UKZN Foundation campaign to support South African Scientists on the front line

News date: 2020-04-11