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The imperative for historical perspective over COVID-19

“Study the past, if you would divine the future,” Confucius said. In the fifth PPS Webinar, to be held next Tuesday 25 August, leading University of Cape Town medical scientist Professor Robin Wood will argue that while researchers focus frantically on the present, history holds important insights into the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Historical precedent – The need for perspective” is the fifth in a highly successful webinar series. Last week’s webinar on COVID-19 modelling attracted more than 700 medical professionals. The series is hosted by PPS – Health Professions IndemnityMedicalBrief and UCT’s Desmond Tutu Health Foundation.

The world has been exposed to many epidemics and pandemics down the centuries, with the earliest recorded in 430 BC in Athens, after a plague spread through Libya, Ethiopia and Egypt. Two-thirds of Athenians are believed to have died.

The 1918 Spanish Flu, which caused 50 million deaths worldwide, has been studied by Wood, who has experienced three pandemics in his lifetime: Asian flu, HIV-Aids and SARS. What lessons may be learned from history, that can inform efforts to overcome COVID-19? Humanity – and the healthcare sector – is not putting this pandemic into perspective.

The webinar series is aimed at keeping medical professionals up to speed with research and developments around the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. It is moderated by MedicalBrief Managing Editor William Saunderson-Meyer.

Wood will present for half an hour, after which he will answer questions. Previous webinars have attracted large numbers of questions. Participants are encouraged where possible to send ahead of time questions they would like Wood to address. Send to:


[link url=""]The webinar is from 18.00 to 19.00 on Tuesday 25 August 2020. Click here to register[/link]


Professor Robin Wood

Professor Robin Wood is director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre and a member of the University of Cape Town’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine. He heads the scientific research group of the Medical Research Council-UCT flagship programme investigating the aerobiology of tuberculosis transmission.

Previously a National Research Foundation A-rated scientist, he has been a Visiting Scientist at Harvard Medical School and an Honorary Professor of the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Wood has served on numerous international scientific advisory boards including the United States Presidents Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, the World Health Organization, the International AIDS Society, the International Partnership for Microbicides, AERAS TB Vaccine initiative, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The webinar series

The PPS Webinar series has had four previous webinars drawing on the infectious diseases research and the expertise of Professor Robin Wood. Launching on 19 June, the webinars have been successful and pertinent to the may hundreds of medical professionals who attend.

Here is information about the previous four webinars, including links to them for those who are interested.


[link url=""]SA is over the COVID-19 hump; time for a new, provincial strategy — Prof Robin Wood[/link]

Data indicates that South Africa has passed the peak of the COVID-19 infections wave, says Professor Robin Wood of the University of Cape Town. Despite its limitations, pandemic modelling suggests SA should now move from a single national response to more nuanced provincial responses.


[link url=""]COVID-19 transmission – The global misuse of data[/link]

Decisions on COVID-19 made by governments and the World Health Organization may literally be life-or-death and yet political leaders have made avoidable errors and misused ‘scientific data’, respected medical scientist Professor Robin Wood told a PPS Webinar. The bungling regarding the airborne transmission of the coronavirus is an example.


[link url=""]Fast and dangerous — The road to a COVID-19 vaccine[/link]

There is a great deal to worry about in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine, said leading medical scientist Professor Robin Wood. Challenges include the rapid pace of development, the need to avoid health-threatening mistakes, the huge amounts of money involved and immense pressure to thwart the deadly virus, he told a webinar hosted by PPS Health Professions Indemnity, MedicalBrief and the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation.


[link url=""]COVID focus must stress prevention and good, early treatment[/link]

Professor Robin Wood, one of South Africa’s eminent medical scientists, says that while Western medicine tends to focus on the sickest patients, to make a public health impact efforts need to concentrate on stopping people getting COVID-19and on providing good, early treatment to prevent disease progression. In the first of five PPS webinars drawing on global research to inform local prevention and treatment, Wood also said he was no longer sure what South Africa’s overall strategy was in responding to the pandemic.


[link url=""]The webinar is from 18.00 to 19.00 on Tuesday 25 August 2020. Click here to register[/link]

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