Links round-up

Hi all,

Coronavirus is kind of all-consuming, isn’t it? It’s not just the links that it’s swallowing whole, but my time. Luckily, now that I barely leave the house and don’t see any of my friends I have a whole lot more of it. I feel terrible for my friends with kids, though – if they’re lucky they about 42 seconds to plan dinner and relax in the afternoon and fifteen minutes to decompress while they lock themselves in the bathroom and pretend not to hear the banging on the door. This week’s Coronalinks have a little distraction, but also – still – a whole bunch of Covid.

  1. The best thing I read all week was this superb explainer on why it’s so gosh-danged hard to model Coronavirus. It’s a long read, but I strongly, strongly recommend everyone read it. It’s a great way to understand why different models are coming out with such different outcomes, and how massive the confidence intervals around any predictions need to be. Beyond that, it’s just a really nice applied example of how modelling is done. I’ve seen a couple of people criticise forecasters who use large confidence intervals in their predictions for the virus, but I find such critiques ridiculous: they are asking for people to either know much more than can be known at the moment or to lie about how much they don’t know. One is impossible, and the other is irresponsible. 538 have done a bunch of other great pieces: this one on the aforementioned confidence intervals and this one on the uncertain science of handwashing (pesky confidence intervals again!).
  2. There has been increasing coverage of how poor countries should respond to Coronavirus. Given those wide confidence intervals a wide range of possible approaches are plausible. Two pieces urging caution in importing Western models of response to LICs that are worth considering: Amanda Glassman, Kalipso Chalkidou and Richard Sullivan at CGD and David Pilling in the FT. And more from CGD’s superb coverage of Covid and education.
  3. And now something to cheer you up – NPR got a ringside seat to a company in the automobile supply chain shifting over to ventilator production, and it’s kind of amazing (transcript). I commented on Twitter a while back that firms, retailers and people are learning a vast amount about our own flexibility and how we can work and interact. At least some of these changes are going to stick. And while we’re being upbeat, Marta Foresti’s Ode to Key Workers, overwhelmingly migrants (#migrantsaregoodforyoupart2,030,291,928,119)
  4. Now on to something completely Covidthoganal: a research paper uses Australia’s past as a penal colony to examine the costs of masculinity in men’s health and wellbeing. I can’t say I’m completely convinced, but the story the authors are putting forward, that norms of masculinty lead to sub-optimal outcomes seems plausible. As all of you can tell from these weekly e-mails, I model myself on the John Wayne strong and silent type and sometimes wish I was more verbose.
  5. Dietz on Covidmacro – part 3. Just read and take notes, please.
  6. And ending things on a non-Covid line, if not an optimistic one: Martin Ravallion’s most recent piece looks at the extreme difficulty of making the last steps to zero poverty, suggesting it may wind up taking decades even from the time when poverty declines to 3% of the population.
  7. I hope everyone is staying well, and taking care of their mental health. I’m lucky that I’m cooped up with my wife, probably the only human being on the plane who can bear my presence for such an extended period of time. There’s a bunch of happy stuff online to keep you going if you don’t have as much company as you’d like, though: Dolly Parton reading bedtime stories, Poetry read by poets, the Stockport Spiderman, the Llandudno goats, and a huge amount of mutual aid.

 Have a great weekend at home, despite the lure of the sun!


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