The world’s leading experts in health, science and economics discussed the post-COVID-19 world at the inaugural J-IDEA symposium.
Central bankers, Nobel laureates, epidemiologists, public health policymakers and a former Prime Minister came together for the symposium, Shaping the post-COVID-19 world, which marked the first anniversary of the Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics (J-IDEA).
Since the launch in October 2019., the Institute has been largely focussed on analysing the impact of COVID-19 around the world.
Opening the symposium, Professor Neil Ferguson, Director of J-IDEA, said: "Our research to date includes 37 reports on the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, health system capacity and potential impact on different age groups.
"These reports have been used by policy makers globally and have helped informed key decisions on public health. We have also created some useful planning tools and resources which have been used both nationally and globally."
"J-IDEA's scientific papers and reports have changed the world." President Alice Gast Imperial College London
Imperial's President Alice Gast thanked Community Jameel, the co-founders of J-IDEA, and said: "The global attention towards J-IDEA was inevitable, it just happened more rapidly and more urgently than we foresaw.
"The incredible J-IDEA team have worked night and day to provide better understanding of the pandemic, and their scientific papers and reports have changed the world.
"Their analysis of cases outside of China was a clarion call for the world to recognise there was substantial human to human transmission."
Fady Jameel, Vice Chairman of Community Jameel, said: "None of us could anticipate how soon J-IDEA would be at the centre of a global pandemic, and we would like to thank them for all their work in the past 12 months.
"Their work demonstrated the team's world leading capabilities and reminded us of the vital role the global scientific community can play in solving health challenges using data and evidence. We are excited to see the challenges that J-IDEA will tackle next."
What have we learned about coronavirus?
"I think we now know more about coronavirus than any other virus in history." Neil Ferguson Director of J-IDEA
The first session focused on our current state of understanding of the virus and how to control it, and featured talks from Professor Ferguson and Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust. Sir Jeremy said enough was known about coronavirus in January to act straight away, but the response was delayed.
Sir Jeremy also said that he believed the virus would be around for years to come. Sir Jeremy said: "I think we’re now talking about the emergence of what will become an endemic human infection for years to come, and there will always be populations that are susceptible, I don’t think it will disappear."
Professor Ferguson said: "I think we now know more about this virus than any other virus.
"The intensive research from the last 12 months, has given us a completely unrivalled view into the epidemiology of this virus, even compared with influenza which is the best studied virus."
Professor Ferguson also said that he expected a difficult few months ahead for the UK and Europe, as we enter winter and spring.
Professor Ferguson said: "We will have a difficult few months with similar sorts of measures in place that we have now through to the end of March, I would say, in much of Europe.
“At that point, both because of seasonality but also because a lot of the most vulnerable people will hopefully then be protected, we will be able to relax social distancing measures and current restrictions quite nicely."
The session was facilitated by Dr Nimalan Arinaminpathy.
In a special video recording to mark the one-year anniversary of the Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics (J-IDEA), Mr Blair spoke with the institute's director Professor Neil Ferguson.
How to mitigate the social and economic impacts of the pandemic?
"Many of us at the IMF have turned to J-IDEA for knowledge, guidance and to understand how pandemic will effect lives and livelihoods." Dr Gita Gopinath International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The second session explored how nations can manage and remedy the economic and social impacts of the pandemic. It featured talks from leading economists, Jonathan Haskel, Professor of Economics at Imperial College Business School and a member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, Nobel-winning economist and Director of MIT's J-PAL, Esther Duflo, and Dr Gita Gopinath, Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Professor Haskel said there was no “trade-off” between health and the economy and that there would be an impact on gross domestic product even without a lockdown.
He said: “It’s not true that a lockdown kills off activity – what happens is that it’s the fear of infection that kills activity."
“Even without a lockdown, if the infection rate gets too high, people are going to stop taking part in the economy,” he added.
“Lockdowns are a symptom of the fact there’s a high infection rate.”
Esther Duflo warned that the world could face a similar threat from climate change scientific evidence wasn't quickly acted on.
Professor Duflo said: "I think its been difficult for us to project ourselves into the future.
"We were warned that a pandemic would happen one day, and as late as February it was not in everyones mind. I think it’s a bit the same for climate change, the science is very clear we are being warned and for many people its not in their consciousness.
"Sometimes science is real and what scientists tell us will happen, and sometimes nature is stronger than us. Climate change will not be address with a vaccine, so we need to put in place conditions to mitigate it today."
Dr Gopinath said: "The world as a whole deployed 12 trillion dollars in fiscal support measures, but if you look at distribution its overwhelmingly in advanced economies. Countries that have been able to provide income support measures have recovered much faster than countries that have not."
"Many of us at the IMF have turned to J-IDEA for knowledge, guidance and to understand how pandemic will effect lives and livelihoods.
The session was facilitated by Dr Katharina Hauck.
How can we better prepare for pandemics?
"Community engagement has played a very central role in our fight against this pandemic." Dr John Nkengasong Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
The third session looked to the future and how we can effectively prepare for future pandemics and ensure health systems are and remain resilient.
The session included talks from Dame Sally Davies, Master of Trinity College and former Chief Medical Officer, Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Peter Smith, Professor of Health Policy at Imperial.
Dame Sally said COVID-19 has highlighted weaknesses in data sharing systems, and spoke about the aims of the Trinity Challenge, which was launched earlier this year, and of which Imperial is a founding partner.
Dame Sally said: "We can and must do better to identify the next health threats, and respond to threats such as AMR, and recover in away that does not exacerbate inequalities."
Dr Nkengasong spoke about community engagement and the importance of information being timely, accurate, and truthful. He said: "If one of these is missing, it leaves a gap which is filled with Mia-information."
Dr Nkengasong added: "Africa have benefitted from past experiences of ebola, the HIV pandemic that is still going on, community engagement has played a very central role in our fight against this pandemic."
Professor Smith said Covid should have dispelled any scepticism of the economic impact of pandemics.
He added: "In research this should stimulate a major step towards multidisciplinary perspectives."
The session was facilitated by Professor Timothy Hallett.
J-IDEA: a remarkable 12 months
The Jameel Institute (J-IDEA) was launched just 12 months ago, with the support of Community Jameel, the global philanthropy established by Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel KBE.
Since the launch, the Institute has been largely focussed on analysing the impact of COVID-19 around the world, but has many other objectives, such as responding to extreme climate events, and natural and humanitarian disasters.
J-IDEA will tackle crises, such as Ebola and MERS, alongside longer-term global priorities, including the impact of climate change on health, using cutting-edge data science and public health research to deliver policy insights.
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.
Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.
Dr Sabine L. van Elsland
School of Public Health
School of Public Health