During November and December I had been quoted in various articles around the case growth in South Africa associated with Omicron. I am learning just how volatile the process of journalism is (especially the UK ones). I was asked for an interview for one of these but this came at a extremely busy time so I did not respond in time so an article was ran based on what I said on my tweets. The others didn't reach out to my knowledge.
I'm just diarising these as this might be my 15 minutes, but it's maybe also a lesson in understanding how journalism works and doesn't work.
The Times (2 December 2021)
I was quoted as follows:
Louis Rossouw, a member of the Actuarial Society of South Africa’s Continuous Statistical Investigation Committee, calculated the reproduction rate in September — the one associated with Delta — to be 0.8. This meant that if ten people were infected they could pass it to eight: the pandemic shrunk. He calculated the R of Omicron to be above 2. Ten people were instead infecting 20.
The Telegraph (13 December 2021)
I am quoted as follows:
Louis Rossouw, of the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group in South Africa, said that although the country had surpassed the peak of previous waves some areas were beginning to see a lull.
"Case growth is steeper than last week but still has slowed down versus November," he said. "In Gauteng, cases are still levelling off. Tshwane cases are relatively flat, with a slight increase in the most recent days."
The article then highlights some of the milder severity observed in South Africa. It should be noted though that this may well be from increased vaccination since the previous (mainly Delta) wave. The implication is then that it's not clear to me that this would be to the benefit of the paper's UK audience who had already been vaccinated in the Delta wave.
Financial Times (10 December 2021)
So I wasn't really quoted in this, but I'm going to count it. John Burn-Murdoch asked to use work I do to adjust cases before calculating R from them. This was used in a graph in the above article and you would see me on the footnote of the graph.
Together with that John also followed and tweeted about my work to his considerable following (over 400k at the time of writing) which really exposed my work further and clearly increased my followers on Twitter tremendously.
As an example:
News24 (11 December 2021)
In this piece the mention me as follows:
The effective reproductive rate of infections in South Africa, is decreasing after a sharp increase to levels over three - which means that every infected person in theory passed the virus on to three others, according to research published online by Louis Rossouw, an actuary who is a member of the Actuaries Covid-19 Response Group. While still high, it is falling, as pointed out by demography professor, Tom Moultrie.
The share Tom's tweet:
The Express (14 December 2021 x2)
They had a few issues in their piece. The 2nd headline is not in line with reality at the time. Cases in South Africa was climbing rather rapidly at the time and I had been showing it. Only Gauteng appeared to be levelling off.
In Gauteng, cases have also begun cases are levelling off, Louis Rossouw, of the COVID-19 Actuaries Response Group in South Africa said.
He told The Daily Telegraph: "Case growth is steeper than last week but still has slowed down versus November.
"In Gauteng, cases are still levelling off.["]
"Tshwane cases are relatively flat, with a slight increase in the most recent days."
Note these are just tweets. They did not speak to me.
The go on to quote Pieter Streicher that said:
"Omicron is extremely mild. The rest of the world has nothing to fear."
I clearly disagree with that and given Pieter's history as part of PANDA disinformation and anti-vax group the paper may have needed to look at that.
The Sun (14 December 2021)
I'm quoting along similar lines as other pieces as follows:
However, there is positive data coming from South Africa, which was first hit with the variant.
Cases in the hotspots of Gauteng province and the city of Tshwane appear to be stabilising, experts say.
"Case growth is steeper than last week but still has slowed down versus November," said Louis Rossouw, of the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group in South Africa, according to The Telegraph.
"In Gauteng, cases are still levelling off. Tshwane cases are relatively flat, with a slight increase in the most recent days."
The Telegraph (14 December 2021):
In this piece CMO of UK is quoted:
Chris Whitty has warned the Cabinet to expect a “significant increase in hospitalisations” because of omicron, as he said that claims Covid-19 has peaked in South Africa were not “reliable”.
The Chief Medical Officer said it was “too early” to say if South African cases were reducing or plateauing, but cautioned that there was “no reliable evidence” from South African scientists to show that case rates had peaked.
I'm then placed in contrast to that (unbeknownst to me):
Louis Rossouw, of the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group in South Africa, said that although the country had surpassed the peak of previous waves, some areas were beginning to see a lull.
“Case growth is steeper than last week but still has slowed down versus November,” he said.
This while cases continue growing rather rapidly outside these hotspots, and where there are data issues that could be clouding the case numbers in SA.
I actually agree with Whitty though:
But Professor Whitty argued that Britain could expect to see a “significant increase” in hospitalisations as cases of the omicron variant continued to rise.
He told the Cabinet that it was too early to say how severe omicron was, but confirmed its doubling time was two to three days.
Newsweek (15 December 2021)
I'm quoted as follows:
Another scientist noted that the average number of new cases for the past seven days in Tshwane, one of the early epicenters in Gauteng, is now "relatively flat."
"Case growth is steeper than last week but still has slowed down versus November," Louis Rossouw, of the COVID-19 Actuaries Response Group in South Africa, told The Telegraph on Sunday. "In Gauteng, cases are still levelling off. Tshwane cases are relatively flat, with a slight increase in the most recent days."
Daily Mail (18 December 2021)
The same piece was published in News Nation USA.
The headline of the piece is based on a tweet of mine on the same day. A screenshot of the tweet is provided in the article:
There is a bit of a mistake in the article. You should be able to spot it below (Hint - compare with the headline):
After reaching a peak of 10,100 per day on December 7 on a seven-day moving average, cases are now around 8,000 per day, according to Louis Rossouw, who has written a scientific paper on the Omicron variant in the country.
MyBroadband (19 December 2021)
This piece is mainly about the Health Minister of South Africa, Joe Phaahla's decision not implement further lockdown measures before Christmas.
It includes this:
Actuarial scientist Louis Rossouw concurred, saying that cases in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, and the North West are slowing, but are still growing in other provinces.
Rossouw’s calculations also showed that the Covid–19 reproduction number in South Africa has declined to a range of 1.13 – 1.24.
MyBroadband (23 December 2021)
I'm quoted as follows:
Actuarial scientist Louis Rossouw added that the 7-day moving average of Covid-19 cases peaked on 12 December at around 22,000 cases per day.
Le Monde (24 December 2021)
I was also interviewed for a piece in Le Monde. I don't have the quotes as it's behind a paywall.
BizNews (24 December 2021)
I'm not linking to this site as it provided a platform for PANDA disinformation. It is a copy-paste from the MyBroadband piece of 23 December (see above). They reference the original article but reproduce it word for word.
Other Foreign Language Pieces
The above appears similar to the Daily Express piece?
There was a strange piece that pulled a chart from a district in SA with very few cases and called it the most infectious place in SA. It had a number of factual errors etc. Not linking to it.