Usher Institute

Usher Institute COVID-19 webinars

Join the Usher Institute for our weekly COVID-19 webinars, exploring the global response to the pandemic.

Usher institute coronavirus webinar

In these unprecedented times we need to rapidly learn about the emerging evidence on COVID-19. This evidence includes not only what is being gathered, analysed and reported by researchers but also evidence relating to the approaches different countries and inter-governmental organisations have taken to respond to the pandemic.

Webinars will be targeted to members of the academic community in the UK and beyond, the public health community in Scotland and further afield, and key decision-makers from a range of sectors.

Webinar series organisers: Professor Aziz Sheikh, Director of the Usher Institute and Professor Linda Bauld, Bruce and John Usher Chair of Public Health, Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh. 

These webinars are hosted via Zoom webinars, and live streamed to YouTube.  Videos are available after the events.  See links to register for future events (when available) and view recordings of previous events via YouTube below.

Webinar 11: ISARIC and COVID-19: The International Severe Acute Respiratory and emerging Infection Consortium's work to accelerate outbreak research and response

Speaker: Calum Semple, Professor of Child Health and Outbreak Medicine, University of Liverpool

Biography:  Professor Calum Semple came to University of Liverpool in 1999 after training in London and Oxford. His doctoral research was in clinical virology and funded by an MRC - Burroughs Wellcome Industrial Fellowship. He was converted to paediatrics by inspiring clinical teachers at Oxford and later persuaded to sub-specialise with the renowned respiratory team at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

An NIHR National Clinician Scientist Award in 2002 allowed Calum to develop his principal research interest in bronchiolitis and influenza, the two most important causes of Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) in children and adults. He was jointly appointed Senior Clinical Lecturer in Child Health at University of Liverpool with tenure and Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in 2006. His personal chair in Child Health and Outbreak Medicine was awarded in December 2017. He is Chief Investigator for BESS, FLU-CATs, WHO ISARIC Clinical Characterisation Protocol UK, and Convalescent Plasma for Ebola Virus Disease in Sierra Leone "Ebola_CP" and BESS. BESS - the Bronchiolitis Endotracheal Surfactant Study in a multinational randomised controlled trial of Endotracheal Surfactant administered to infants with life-threatening Bronchiolitis funded by the NIHR EME programme.

He is co-investigator on ARCHIE (2014-) and Emergency Evaluation of Convalescent Plasma for Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) in Guinea "Ebola-Tx" (2014-17). Calum was a co-investigator on the FLU-CIN and MOSAIC studies that characterized in near real-time the clinical and immunological response to Influenza A/H1N1pdm2009 infection during the pandemic. Calum is the Senior Clinical Editor of the journal Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses. He is a member of NERVTAG is an expert committee of the Department of Health (DH), that advises the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and, through the CMO, ministers, DH and other Government departments on New and Emerging Respiratory Viral Threats. Calum provides a tertiary paediatric respiratory outpatient clinic and runs the regional paediatric bronchoscopy service with Professor Kevin Southern and colleagues at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

Title: ISARIC and COVID-19: The International Severe Acute Respiratory and emerging Infection Consortium's work to accelerate outbreak research and response

Friday 5 June 10:00 - 11:00 (UK)

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Webinar 10: Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy: current approaches and next steps

Speaker: Stefania Boccia, Professor of Hygiene, Preventive Medicine and Public Health at UCSC in Rome


Stefania Boccia is Full professor of Hygiene, Preventive Medicine and Public Health at UCSC in Rome.

She obtained a Master of Science in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and a PhD in Genetic Epidemiology at the Erasmus MC, Rotterdam. She is the Director of the Section of Hygiene of the Department of Health Science and Public Health of UCSC and President of the Public Health Epidemiology Section of EuropeanPublic Health Associations (EUPHA).

From 2016 -to 2018 she was Adjunct Professor at the Mount Sinai Medical School, New York.

In 2018 she founded the spin-off “Vihtali srl” (Value In Health Technology and Academy for Leadership & Innovation) at UCSC.

She currently coordinates the project titled “European network staff eXchange for integrAting precision health in the health Care sysTems” (ExACT) funded by the European Commssion (EC) within the H2020 Marie-Slodowska Curie projects (MSCA-RISE).

Title: Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy: current approaches and next steps

Abstract:  In the coronavirusdisease2019(COVID-19) pandemic, Italy has been hit very hard,1 with 219.070 documented cases and 30560 documented deaths related to severe acute respiratory syndromecoronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection as of May 10, 2020. The number of cases and d

eaths cannot be explained simply because of the epidemic starting in Italy earlier compared with other countries besides China. It is important to understand why death rates were so high in Italy to learn how to best prepare and how to plan for optimal actions in other countries. While some contributing factors may be immutable (eg, age structure of the population), some other contributing factors are potentially modifiable.

Wednesday 27 May 10:00 - 11:00 (UK)

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Webinar 9: COVID-19 and Tobacco: Integrating communicable and non-communicable disease responses

In collaboration with the following programmes: the SPECTRUM Consortium; the Tobacco Control Capacity Programme (TCCP); Addressing Smokeless Tobacco and building Research Capacity in South Asia (ASTRA); and Stopping Tobacco Organisations and Products (STOP).


  • Dr Lion Shahab - University College London, UK
  • Professor Kamran Siddiqi - University of York, UK
  • Dr Monika Arora - Public Health Foundation of India
  • Dr Tom Hird - University of Bath, UK

Chair:  Professor Linda Bauld, Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh


  • Introduction - Linda Bauld
  • The association between Covid-19 and smoking - Lion Shahab
  • Cessation and Covid-19 - Kamran Siddiqi
  • Need to strengthen tobacco control policies in the time of Covid-19 and LMIC perspective - Monika Arora
  • Tobacco industry influence extending via Covid19 - Tom Hird

Thursday 21 May 10:00 - 11:00 (UK)

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Webinar 8: Addressing COVID-19 in Vietnam: Progress to date and future priorities

Dr Pham Quang Thai, Vice Head of Epidemiology Dept., National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE), Vietnam

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading globally. Vietnam’s strict containment measures have, to date, significantly reduced the spread of the virus. This presentation will aim to summarise the activities to address COVID-19 in Vietnam including the use of emergency control measures such as surveillance, contact tracing and quarantine and others. In addition, the importance of integrating resources from multiple systems across the country, including health, mass media, transportation, education, public affairs, defense and others will be described. In order to better understand how Vietnam has managed to reduce the public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, this presentation will review in detail specific measures for the prevention and control of the COVID-19 that could be replicated in other countries.

Wednesday 13 May 09:00-10:00 (UK)  

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Webinar 7: Initial Response to COVID-19: How did Eastern Europe get it right?

Professor Igor Rudan, International Health and Molecular Medicine, The University of Edinburgh

Abstract:  In late January I started writing a popular science series "The Quarantine of Wuhan" for about 30,000 followers on Facebook. I intended to address various aspects of the crisis as they were emerging. I tried to provide explanations in a way that would be easy to understand to very large crowds. I did this under the influence of the late professor Andrija Stampar, a 20th-century pioneer of international public health, who was also a Croatian. This giant of preventive medicine taught us that, in the fight against infectious diseases, “finding ways to inform population is more important than passing any laws” and that “a good epidemiologist and physician must be a teacher of the nation”. Croatia is also home to the world's first quarantine, introduced by the city of Dubrovnik in 1377. My series was soon commissioned by Croatia's leading newspaper, “Vecernji list”. The interest in the series became intense in six countries of the former Yugoslavia. As a result, my regular columns and short videos with key messages were spread through social networks. They gradually gained an audience of up to 3 million people. From early March I became the key government adviser for COVID-19 response for Croatia and remained heavily involved in the planning of the quarantine measures, hospital care, protection of retirement homes, and planning the exit.

Thursday 7 May 14:00-15:00 (UK)

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Webinar 6: COVID-19 in Africa: A multidimensional crisis: Strategies & challenges in mitigation for LMICs

Dr Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, Former Chief Humanitarian Coordinator, Nigeria; Global Advisory Board Member, WomenLift Health

in conversation with Professor Liz Grant, Director of the Global Health Academy and Assistant Principal for Global Health, University of Edinburgh 

Thursday 30 April 13:00-14:00 (UK)

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Webinar 5: Test, track, isolate, and treat in South Korea: planning for the next round?

Professor Jerome Kim Director General, International Vaccine Institute, Seoul, South Korea

Abstract: On 18 February 2020, S. Korea uncovered a large outbreak of COVID-19 infection associated with a large church in the city of Daegu and the adjacent North Gyeongsang province.  Implementing lessons learned during the MERS outbreak of 2020, the government established a Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures HQ, headed by the Prime Minister after the alert level was raised to its highest level. The head of the Korea Center for Disease Control is the deputy and coordinates with local governments. There was no lockdown. Decisions were driven by data and were made promptly and explained transparently. Messaging was consistent and clear. The government made use of special authority during such emergencies and counted on the voluntary cooperation of the Korean population. The key elements were training, testing, isolating, tracking and treating.  Training, or pandemic preparation had been ongoing, and in December 2019 a tabletop exercise described the government’s response to an unknown pathogen from China brought back to Korea by a Korean couple. Testing was accomplished by the early and decisive availability of RT-PCR test kits and the deployment of drive through test centers (later also telephone booth test centers) that allowed Koreans to gain access to free testing for suspected COVID-19 illness. The government isolated infected persons and also kept track of persons who might have been exposed, requiring quarantine in those cases. A system to notify the public was available so that anonymized information regarding potential exposure locations was disclosed when available. Tracking teams used mobile and credit card information to further document the potential exposures, and treatment of infected patients was emphasized, with attention given to areas of the greatest disease burden.  By the 29th of February infections had peaked and started to decrease steadily, dropping below 100 per day in mid March. By the middle of April these were consistently below 50 per day, and on 20 April the government issued guidelines for the partial lifting of restrictions, changing them from “strong advisory” to “restrain operations” for churches, after school study centers, bars and gyms. Hygiene is still emphasized. The outcome of this experience is still unknown.

Friday 24 April 09:00-10:00 (UK)

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Webinar 4: Public health measures to slow the community spread of COVID-19 in Hong Kong 

Professor Ben Cowling Head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control, School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong

Abstract: Hong Kong shares a land border with mainland China and is well prepared to be on the frontline of emerging infectious diseases in the region. Since the emergence of COVID-19, Hong Kong has implemented a number of public health measures including border restrictions, quarantine and isolation, social distancing. These measures together with changes in population behaviour have successfully suppressed the community spread of COVID-19 to date. The social distancing measures and behavioural changes also led to a substantial reduction in influenza transmission in early February 2020. In this talk, Ben Cowling will provide an overview of the public health response to COVID-19 in Hong Kong and discuss the impact and sustainability of these measures.

Friday 17 April 10:00-11:00 (UK)

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Webinar 3: Canada's approach to addressing COVID-19

Professor Steven Hoffman Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Population & Public Health, Canada

Abstract: Having learned harsh lessons from the 2003 SARS outbreak, Canada’s government was an early actor to the COVID-19 pandemic, funding peer-reviewed research less than a month after the declaration of COVID-19 as a public health emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020, with much of the country committing to physical distancing measures with less than 1000 cases confirmed nationally. In this talk, Steven Hoffman will provide a timeline of COVID-19 in Canada, detail Canada’s response and discuss what’s next in our efforts to address COVID-19. 

Thursday 9 April 14:00-15:00 (UK)

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Webinar 2: Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19: Practical lessons and insights from experiences in China

Professor Tingbo Liang Chairman of the First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of medicine, China

Abstract: The COVID-19 epidemic has been well controlled in China since its outbreak, but there is a need for all medical workers in the world to share information to address it. As a provincial treatment center for COVID-19, we developed hospital adaptive coping strategies for the virus based on different stages of the epidemic. To document our experience and rapidly share best practice, we wrote a handbook which has now been translated into multiple languages and can be downloaded from and

Thursday 2 April 09:00-10:00 (UK)

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Webinar 1: A systems-level approach to COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore

Professor Yik Ying Teo  Dean, Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, Singapore

Abstract: Singapore has been amongst the first few countries to see the importation and subsequent local transmission of COVID-19. The outbreak is ongoing since the first case arrived on 23 January. I will share the multi-prong measures Singapore has put in place that goes beyond simply a health-sector response, and also discuss some of the challenges ahead.

Friday 27 March 09:00-10:00 (UK)

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Edinburgh Infectious Diseases webinars

Edinburgh Infectious Diseases have begun a series of webinars focussing on the response to Covid-19 by academics and clinicians in Edinburgh.

Find out more on their website



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