The coronavirus has grown into a pandemic with far-reaching and long-lasting consequences. We see it as our task to help you understand this worldwide development by providing context for the news in a carefully considered, factual and constructive way. That’s why we’re launching this guide to the coronavirus pandemic. 

This guide is where we’ll share key insights from our own reporting on the pandemic, with short summaries and links to the articles. And we’ll guide you to the most important journalism, academic publications, and other relevant sources we find elsewhere.

The guide is divided into a number of different themes to give you easy access to the topics you’re looking for. We will be updating it daily. The latest additions will appear at the top of each theme.

About the virus

What do we know about coronavirus? And what don’t we know yet? Here you’ll find the most important insights on viruses, pandemics and Covid-19.

March 30, 2020

What we can learn from previous pandemics (BBC) A pandemic may seem like a unique phenomenon, but the last global outbreak of disease was less than a decade ago. Swine flu (a global outbreak of H1N1 influenza) claimed at least 18,000 lives in 2009 and 2010. BBC’s Witness History page has compiled a wonderful collection of videos and podcasts on the biggest epidemics and pandemics of the past century: the “Spanish” flu of 1918, Sars and Ebola, but also the lesser-known Marburg virus, which emerged in Germany in the 1960s.

Doctors, virologists, lab assistants and eyewitness accounts offer details on each outbreak. The first-hand reports from people who worked on the frontline of medical crises offer an interesting historical perspective on the pandemic that their successors are now fighting.
Recommended by Nabeelah Shabbir, conversation editor (45 min listening time)

March 24, 2020

When will there be a drug to treat Covid-19? (The Correspondent) The medical world’s top priority right now is developing a coronavirus vaccine. But drugs to treat Covid-19 could also alleviate the suffering caused by the pandemic. Finding a treatment won’t reduce the number of infections, but people who get infected won’t get as sick. These medicines target the proteins that accompany the virus: if a drug can block one protein in the chain of infection, the virus will become ineffective. Explainer by Ruben Mersch, Big Pharma correspondent at De Correspondent (7-9 min reading time)

March 23, 2020

Ask the experts any questions you have about the coronavirus (The Correspondent) We’re bringing together experts from all over the world to talk to you and answer any questions you have on the virus and pandemic. Callout by Nabeelah Shabbir, conversation editor (3 min reading time) How the virus became a pandemic (New York Times) On 31 December 2019, when at least 1,000 people were already infected, the Chinese government informed the World Health Organization about what we now know as the coronavirus. A large-scale analysis of travel behaviour based on mobile phones and social media shows that at least seven million Chinese people left the city of Wuhan, where the current pandemic began, within the month following that warning.

When Wuhan was cut off from the outside world at the end of January, the virus had already spread to 30 cities in 26 different countries. Researchers estimate that 85% of infected travellers from China travelled abroad without visible symptoms.
Recommended by Johannes Visser, senior copy editor at De Correspondent (5 min viewing and reading time)
Understand the coronavirus in eight minutes (Kurzgesagt) In just eight minutes, YouTube channel Kurzgesagt explains what coronavirus is. In the lungs, the virus attaches itself to cell membranes and instructs the cell to keep cloning the virus. The coronavirus can also affect the immune system, so it starts attacking your own healthy cells as well. Once your immune system is exhausted, bacteria can move in and cause even more damage to the body. Their advice to prevent infection? Wash your hands as if you’ve just cut up jalapeños and want to put in your contact lenses. Recommended by Najib el Moussaoui, tech desk operator (8 min viewing time) How corona works, and why it makes you sick (New York Times) We all want to defeat the coronavirus, but is this an enemy we can kill? No. Learn the basics of virus biology and you’ll understand why that’s not possible: viruses are not animals; they’re not really even living organisms. They’re biochemical molecules that don’t do anything, and don’t show any signs of life. The problem lies in our own cells. Once they’re infected, our cells produce new copies of the virus, putting our immune system into overdrive. We don’t have to fight the virus; instead, we have to fix how our own bodies respond to it. Recommended by Thomas Oudman, biologist (3 min reading time)

March 19, 2020

The coronavirus lockdown isn’t going away anytime soon (MIT Technology Review) A new modelling study from a team of researchers at Imperial College London has produced a set of long-term scenarios that has already begun to steer government response to the pandemic across the globe.

Until a vaccine or treatment is developed, which could take 18 months or more, the researchers find that isolation of sick and infected patients alone won’t be enough to stop the virus from spreading. The coronavirus is simply too infectious, and new outbreaks will periodically keep popping up. So, some form of society-wide lockdown will need to stay in place.

The most effective social distancing policy, according to the researchers’ model, might be a two-month-on, one-month-off "rolling lockdown", which would stagger countries and cities, and give citizens a break to interact with each other, before returning to lockdown once case rates start to spike again.

The timing of all this depends on whether or not therapies could be rapidly developed to reduce the effects of the disease while we’re waiting for a vaccine, and on global society’s willingness to accept the severe social and economic costs of isolating ourselves for an extended period of time.

A summary of the study and its implications by MIT Technology Review sums up how this "rolling lockdown" scenario might transform most aspects of daily life, from government surveillance to education to mental health.
Recommended by Eric Holthaus, Climate correspondent (12 min reading time)

March 18, 2020

You’re likely to get the coronavirus (The Atlantic) Because it is so difficult to identify, the coronavirus can spread quickly and easily. That’s the dangerous paradox of this virus. Its symptoms – fever, coughing, shortness of breath – are very similar to those caused by less harmful viruses. Patients often do not show any signs of illness at all.

Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard University, expects that 40% to 70% of the world population will be infected with the virus. An effective vaccine will take at least a year or 18 months to develop, predicts pandemic expert Richard Hatchett from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
Recommended by Riffy Bol, editor at De Correspondent (15 min reading time)
How to read the numbers

New figures on the coronavirus appear daily. How many people are infected? How many people have died from Covid-19? What are the chances of catching it? Here you’ll find the most important insights on all the figures and statistics on the coronavirus.

March 23, 2020

We don’t know much, but we know enough to take action (STAT) We are making decisions based on incomplete data, said Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis in an opinion piece on STAT news, a website on news related to life sciences. Ioannidis believes that drastic actions should not be taken until more information is available.

Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch disagrees. While he absolutely agrees that good data is lacking, he argues that we not only know enough to act but have an imperative to act strongly and swiftly. First, data from countries such as Italy and China has now clearly shown that the number of severe cases can rise at terrifying speeds without timely interventions.

Second, current estimates show that someone who has the virus will infect two other people on average, and possibly even more. Without control measures, the number of cases can grow exponentially. That’s more than enough reason to take decisive action.
Recommended by Maurits Martijn, deputy editor-in-chief at De Correspondent (5 min reading time)

March 18, 2020

Deciphering the pandemic: a guide to understanding the coronavirus numbers (The Correspondent) Nobody really knows how many people worldwide are infected with the coronavirus, what the mortality rate looks like, or exactly how infectious the virus is. That’s because some crucial data is still unavailable.

For example, we can calculate the mortality rate (the percentage of infected people who die of the disease) by dividing the number of deaths by the number of confirmed cases of infection – but we don’t know how many people are infected, or how many people have died of the coronavirus. Epidemiologists determine the infectiousness of a disease by calculating the R0, pronounced R nought or R zero: the average number of people who are infected by one sick person.

If the R0 is higher than 1, the virus will probably continue to spread. If that number is below 1, the outbreak of disease can be expected to subside. However, R0 estimates for the coronavirus vary widely. And the “epidemic doubling time” – how long it takes for the number of confirmed cases to double – also varies significantly from one country to the next, so we don’t know exactly how fast the coronavirus is spreading.
Explainer by Sanne Blauw, Numeracy correspondent (8-10 min reading time)
What is ‘herd immunity’? (The Correspondent) “Herd immunity” is playing a key role in some governments’ measures to combat the coronavirus. The more people who are immune to the virus (because they already had it), the harder it will be for the virus to spread. This approach aims to protect vulnerable groups, such as older people and those with underlying health issues.

Is that wise? That’s the question. There are two crucial aspects that we really don’t know much about yet. The first is the “basic reproduction number” – i.e., on average, how many people will catch the virus from one single infected person. The World Health Organization is currently assuming an average of 1.4 to 2.5 people per infected patient, but those estimates are still nowhere near precise.

The second problem is that we have no idea how long or if people who have had the virus will remain immune. Coronaviruses other than the one currently spreading around the world (Covid-19) might re-infect someone after less than a year, and people retain their immunity to the Sars virus for much longer.

Here’s what we do know for sure: by adopting this approach, we are accepting that a small percentage of the population will become seriously ill. The fact that natural herd immunity is regarded as a viable point of departure for official policy primarily shows that the decisions about which measures to take are surrounded by major uncertainty.
Explainer by Sanne Blauw, Numeracy correspondent (6-8 min reading time)
The politics

Every country is handling the coronavirus crisis differently. Some governments actively intervene, keeping close watch on their citizens, while others are simply letting people get on with their lives. The measures politicians are taking right now don’t just have short-term consequences – they may strongly influence how nations are governed in the future.

March 26, 2020

Will governments roll back their drastic measures when the pandemic ends? (Financial Times) The coronavirus crisis forces the world to face two dilemmas, writes historian Yuval Noah Harari in the Financial Times. The first fight will be about the privacy of citizens. The second is about global cooperation.

In response to the coronavirus, governments will want to collect as much biometric data as possible from their citizens to find out how the disease is spreading. Countries such as China and Israel are now deploying surveillance technology with complete disregard for the privacy of their people, but the bigger question is whether government authorities will roll back those measures once the pandemic ends.

Beyond that, countries need to embrace global solidarity: exchange medical information and equipment, and reach agreements about allowing some movement by essential travellers from specific professions (doctors, scientists, journalists and so on). But which country is going to take the lead, if the US is closing its borders and trying to obtain a monopoly on pharmaceutical companies?
Recommended by Rob Wijnberg, founding editor The Correspondent (15 min reading time, 20 min listening time)
The economics

The pandemic is already leaving its mark on our economy: stock exchanges have plummeted, shops are shuttered, cafes and restaurants are closing their doors by government order, and independent contractors are seeing their flow of projects trickle to a halt. It is already clear that the economic impact will be felt for quite a while. This is where we’ll collect the most important insights on the economic impact of the coronavirus.

March 30, 2020

How to make sure poor nations don’t go bankrupt (The Nation) Poor people are hit hardest by any crisis, and poor nations are equally vulnerable. Now that investors are retreating en masse from “emerging markets” (like Vietnam, Ecuador or South Africa), these countries are finding it difficult to meet their basic needs. They pay dollars to import medical goods and food, but their own currency is depreciating steadily compared to the “modern gold standard”.

To rescue these countries, the US central bank (the Federal Reserve, or “the Fed”), can use “swap lines” to exchange local currencies for dollars, with a promise to swap back later, with interest. But not all countries are allowed to use this option. That gives the Fed a perverse form of power: it can decide which countries will survive, and which won’t.

But there is a way out, public administration experts David Adler and Andres Arauz explain in an article for The Nation. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) can distribute Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to economies around the globe. These SDRs allow nations to act independently from the value of their own currency.
Recommended by Robert Went, economist and Correspondent member (10 min reading time)

March 24, 2020

Why the Federal Reserve should give China a break in pandemic times (New York Times) The last financial crisis was a heart attack, but the current situation looks more like total paralysis from the neck down. No wonder financial markets are seeking safe havens – and they’re still reading safety in dollar signs. But not every country has equal access to dollars. The Federal Reserve – the US central bank – exchanges dollars for euros and dollars for Japanese yen, but not dollars for Chinese renminbi. The British historian Adam Tooze suggests that this crisis requires the Federal Reserve to be more flexible about which countries it’s willing to finance. Recommended by Wester van Gaal, Climate Economics correspondent at De Correspondent (7 min reading time)

March 19, 2020

A unique recession is coming (VoxEU) An economic recession is coming. This one will be unique. In an economy, there’s demand (people want to buy products) and supply (companies offer products). These combined determine the state of the economy.

The last recession was caused by a shortage of demand (people stopped consuming), but the next recession will be mainly caused by a supply shortage. People want to consume, but that’s just not possible (think of, say, the hospitality industry). When businesses go bankrupt, the economy takes a long time to recover. So economic policy must make sure at all costs that short-term supply shortages do not become long-term supply failures.
Recommended by Max van Lent, guest Economics correspondent at De Correspondent (7 min reading time)

March 18, 2020

This virus shows that everything we do has an impact on others – and we need to be empathetic (New Republic) The common thread running through the spread of the coronavirus is interconnectedness. The virus has been able to move around the world so quickly because people are moving. In a globalised world – where capital moves around the globe at lightning speed and online commerce is replacing brick-and-mortar stores – our actions affect other people’s lives.

We shouldn’t distance ourselves from our everyday choices by hiding behind the excuse that “we didn’t create the system, we only exist within it”. We should always think of ourselves as carriers of a virus: if we are not careful how we behave, we will cause harm to others, affecting someone else’s life. That explains why we need to act with empathy in social contexts as well as economic ones.
Recommended by Nesrine Malik, Better Politics correspondent (7 min reading time)
Society and what you can do

Some countries are in complete lockdown, or sheltering in place, while other countries are only closing schools, cafes and restaurants and advising everyone to avoid social contact. What does that do to a society, and what can we ourselves do to make it through this crisis together? This is where you’ll find the most important insights and tips on how to deal with this pandemic.

March 26, 2020

Remember: in quarantine, we’re all alone together (New York Times) Loneliness lurks around the corner in times like these, but it’s not all bad: a lonely person often experiences an “intensifying of perception”, including a more intense engagement with art, literature, film and music.

It also reminds us of our connection with others: we all feel lonely now, and are united in our aloneness. There is a widespread fear that the pandemic will harm not only our physical health but also our emotional wellbeing, by increasing the likelihood of loneliness as we all have to keep an appropriate distance from each other.

Olivia Laing, who authored a beautiful book called “The Lonely City”, explains in this essay the harm that loneliness causes to our mind and body, but also points out that loneliness is “a shared state”: “Whatever anxiety you’re experiencing right now, you’re not alone.”
Recommended by Lynn Berger, Culture and Clichés correspondent (5 min reading time)
Viruses aside, loneliness due to isolation is a health hazard too (New Yorker) The coronavirus is making millions of people feel insecure and lonely. Robin Wright from the New Yorker explains why that emotional toll is just as dangerous as the virus itself. Prolonged loneliness can turn into depression, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia or premature death. To make matters even worse, disasters such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina at least had a clear beginning and an end. When it comes to the Covid-19 outbreak, we simply can’t tell how long it will take. Recommended by Riffy Bol, editor at De Correspondent (10 min reading time)

March 23, 2020

How the surgical face mask has become a symbol of our times (New York Times) "If there is a symbol of the current confusion, fear, misinformation and anxiety generated by the spread of the new coronavirus, it is the surgical face mask," writes New York Times fashion editor Vanessa Friedman.

Face masks – the mouth-and-nose-covering kind – were created in the mid-1890s and used as a protective measure by doctors during surgery to prevent airborne bacteria from entering an open wound. During the outbreak of the Spanish Flu, they became a global phenomenon. The use of the masks slowly disappeared after the first world war, except in China, where masks symbolised civic awareness.

Since the turn of the century, the masks have taken a different role: in cities such as Mumbai, Shanghai and Beijing, they were used to protect against air pollution. Now the mask has become the coronavirus’s avatar, a shorthand for our inability to protect ourselves, our desire to hide, and to appear to take action. But wearing a mask nowadays can also be seen as spreading misinformation because it doesn’t necessarily work as a barrier for healthy people.
Recommended by Emy Demkes, Clothing correspondent at De Correspondent (8 min reading time)
Overreacting to the coronavirus is nothing to be embarrassed about (The Atlantic) Have you already felt it? That fear that you’ll have to laughingly admit afterwards that you may have gone a bit overboard when you decided to completely stay away from other people?

This is a story about that feeling. We won’t know the results of social distancing for weeks. If the outbreak turns out to be better than predicted, you’ll never know exactly what role your behaviour played – whether you did too little, just enough, or way too much. But imagine the opposite: what if it’s less effective than we hope?

We all know about widespread panic that turned out to be an embarrassing overreaction in retrospect. In 1999, the whole world was gripped by the fear that vital computer networks would collapse if the two-digit codes for the year flipped from 99 to 00. In retrospect, was that panic over nothing? Or were the measures we took simply more than sufficient to prevent things from going horribly wrong?
Recommended by Thalia Verkade, Mobility correspondent at De Correspondent (12 min reading time)

March 20, 2020

What we can learn from the Spanish flu, 100 years later (New Yorker) The Spanish flu infected a quarter of the world’s population between 1918 and 1920. This article on the pandemic is a good introduction to the fields of virology and epidemiology.

An important insight is that more dangerous mutations of a virus are less likely to survive. If a virus is acutely severe, people stay inside, thus infecting fewer people. However, biologist Paul Ewald argues that the First World War made this impossible. The most severe strains were allowed to spread as sick soldiers left the trenches.

Malcolm Gladwell’s article is not a guide to the current crisis. Instead, read it as a primer on the current crisis and the enormous efforts that are being made to know more about viruses and how to protect the world from them.
Recommended by Michiel de Hoog, Sports correspondent at De Correspondent (45 min reading time)

March 19, 2020

How to make social distancing less stressful (The Lancet) Scientific research shows that quarantine can have a major detrimental impact on mental health. Similarly, avoiding social contact is going to be quite stressful for a lot of people in the coming weeks. What can you do to make it a little easier for yourself? Give people the feeling that they’re helping others by avoiding physical contact. And be aware that avoiding social contact is a good deed. Recommended by Max van Lent, guest Economics correspondent at De Correspondent (25 min reading time)

March 18, 2020

Don’t forget: disasters and crises bring out the best in people (The Correspondent) Images in the news show people fighting over the last pack of toilet paper on the supermarket shelf – but those semi-comical conflicts are only part of the picture in a major crisis situation. The vast majority of people help one another in times of war, sickness and natural disaster.

Quarantined Italians sing together from their balconies to boost the sense of community; spontaneous groups pop up on social media encouraging people to check in on older neighbours who may be feeling isolated and offer to do their grocery shopping. Scientific research confirms that this sense of solidarity is the rule rather than the exception.

The University of Delaware’s Disaster Research Center has done almost 700 field studies on floods and earthquakes over the past 60 years, consistently showing that nearly everyone stays calm and helps each other in times of crisis.
Column by Rutger Bregman, Progress correspondent at De Correspondent (4-5 min reading time)
How we can defeat coronavirus together by being alone (Washington Post) Social distancing (reducing or avoiding social contact) is a very effective way of slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Distancing is especially effective if it is maintained for some time, and if it is accompanied by government measures such as closing down cafes, restaurants and other gathering points.

It reminds us how important our individual behaviour can be: if more of us stay at home and avoid crowds for a while, we can work together to make sure that fewer people get infected, hospitals are not overloaded, and more people recover as others get sick.
Recommended by Irene Caselli, First 1,000 Days correspondent (5 min reading time)
Coronavirus will also cause a loneliness epidemic (Vox) The coronavirus isn’t just going to cause an economic recession; we can expect a social recession too. The groups most at risk of getting very sick in case of infection – older people and those with health issues – are already the most susceptible to loneliness and social isolation at the best of times.

Now that they have to avoid social contact as much as possible, these dangers are exacerbated. Since both solitude and social isolation are linked to a plethora of health problems, the health and wellness of these vulnerable groups are doubly threatened: by the virus and by the way the virus is being fought. So we shouldn’t just feel responsible for limiting the number of infections but also for preventing the social damage that is now inevitably being caused. How? Call, Skype and care for others!
Recommended by Lynn Berger, Culture and Clichés correspondent at De Correspondent (10 min reading time)
A pandemic affects some people more than others (London Review of Books) Once upon a time, there was an Italian city that was plagued by an epidemic so severe that all residents had to stay home for 40 days. Those who broke quarantaine risked fines or imprisonment. The city was Florence, the epidemic was the Black Death, and the quarantine was proclaimed in 1631.

The Florentine quarantine is the subject of a book by historian John Henderson that came out last summer, which makes clear that the measures did not affect everybody equally. The authorities suspected poor inhabitants in particular of putting themselves first, and they were punished far more drastically whenever they did not abide by the rules.

When people living in poverty lost a family member to the plague, they had to bury their loved ones in mass graves outside the city walls, while the nobility were allowed to do so in church. Neither the book nor the review is connected to the coronavirus, but some groups are still being hit harder than others. This book serves as a profound memory.
Recommended by Lynn Berger, Culture and Clichés correspondent at De Correspondent (15 min reading time)
Who to follow

Our guide will keep you updated every day on the most important insights and best sources on the the coronavirus. But if you want to dig deeper, these sources you should follow.

Positive stories of kind people around the world Trying times can help us humans show the best of ourselves. There are people sending birthday cards to children in Norway who would otherwise be celebrating alone. Twenty-year-olds doing groceries for their older neighbours in New York City. A Polish chef in lockdown sending food to hungry doctors in a nearby hospital. The Associated Press is collecting these positive stories, offering us a space to go to and celebrate our own humanity. Recommended by Irene Caselli, First 1,000 Days correspondent Fact-checking the coronavirus It’s worth following the important work being done by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) at the Poynter Institute, which has gathered 100 fact-checkers from around the world to share knowledge and bust myths about the coronavirus. Recommended by Nabeelah Shabbir, conversation editor The coronavirus syllabus Technology critic Evgeny Morozov started the syllabus to collect the best (scientific) articles, podcasts and videos on the most important topics of our time. This newsletter covers the coronavirus and definitely worth following. Recommended by Maurits Martijn, deputy editor-in-chief at De Correspondent Coronavirus numbers Our World in Data is an excellent, reliable source of data on the coronavirus pandemic and many other topics. The site provides a good explanation of all the uncertainty surrounding the figures, such as the total number of cases. Recommended by Sanne Blauw, Numeracy correspondent A Twitter list to follow 45 scientists The pandemic is the biggest health threat that we’ve faced since 1918, says the director of the Wellcome Trust, a UK-based health research foundation and the world’s second largest philanthropic organisation. The organisation has curated a list on Twitter of 45 international experts on infectious diseases whose feeds you can subscribe to all at once. Cut across the noise and keep your curiosity rooted in science, evidence and facts, rather than hyperbole and conjecture. Recommended by Nabeelah Shabbir, conversation editor
After Covid-19: a long-term view

How will Covid-19 change our politics, economies and societies? It goes without saying that there’s a lot of speculation, but we want to share these well-researched, constructive insights and ideas as we think about a future after the coronavirus.

March 30, 2020

Despite everything, the corona crisis is an opportunity to reform our economies (The Correspondent) All signs indicate that the coronavirus is pulling us into economic recession. This also offers opportunities for restructuring the world: for example, by establishing an economy that is not based on the concept of infinite growth.
Prosperity and well-being no longer go hand in hand, despite what people once believed. The United States, which is much richer than Poland, for example, is facing a declining life expectancy.

It’s time for a post-growth era. Within 30 years, global CO2 emissions need to be slashed to zero to avoid a climate catastrophe. We need to cut down on buying consumer goods, so we stop feeding the plastic soup that’s filling our oceans. Governments need to make significant investments in education, healthcare and green technologies. Any price we pay for these measures, we will more than earn back in a stronger sense of well-being all over the world.
Analysis by Jason Hickel, economic anthropologist (9-12 min reading time)