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Six weeks after the third edition, the world has changed again. The pandemic is raging in South America, particularly in Brazil, Ecuador and Peru. SARS-CoV-2 is under control in China, but in Iran it is not. And in Europe, where most countries have weathered the first wave and open borders to save a compromised tourist season, is now wondering if and for how long this biological drôle de guerre could last.

Science has moved ahead, too. We have seen a more complex picture of COVID-19 and new clinical syndromes; the first data from vaccine trials; first results from randomized controlled drug studies; encouraging publications on monoclonal neutralizing antibodies and serological evidence about the number of people who have come into contact with SARS-CoV-2. Unfortunately, we have also seen the first science scandal with fake data published in highly ranked journals. And we face new challenges like long-term effects of COVID-19 and a Kawasaki-like inflammatory multisystem syndrome in children.

For quite some time, prevention will continue to be the primary pillar of pandemic control. In future waves of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, we will focus on the conditions under which SARS-CoV-2 is best transmitted: crowded, closed (and noisy) places and spaces. Al­though hospitals are not noisy, they are crowded and closed, and the battle against the new coronavirus will be decided at the very center of our healthcare system. Over the next months and maybe years, one of all of our top priorities will be to give all healthcare workers and patients perfect personal protective equipment.

Bernd Sebastian Kamps & Christian Hoffmann

7 June 2020



Preface to the First Edition

Seventeen years ago, in the middle of the outbreak, we decided to write a short medical text about the ongoing SARS drama, presenting the scientific data and providing real-time updates. After publishing three editions in 6 months, a scientific magazine concluded that our SARS Reference ( was “not fancy”, but presented “plenty of information”. When we became aware of the new coronavirus epidemic in mid-January 2020, we immediately felt that time had come to repeat our millenium exercise.

While SARS-CoV-2 seems under control in China, the epidemic is moving west briskly. What only weeks ago seemed an impossible feat – imposing and enforcing strict quarantine measures and isolating millions of people – is now a reality in many countries. People all over the world will have to adapt and invent new lifestyles in what is the most disruptive event since World War II.

We believe that the current situation needs a new type of textbook. Humanity is confronting an unknown and threatening disease which is often severe and fatal. Health care systems are overwhelmed. There is no proven treat­ment and vaccines will not be available soon. Such a situation has not existed since the flu pandemic in 1918.

We believe a clear head is crucial in times of over-information, with dozens of scientific papers published every day, news about hundreds of studies being planned or already on the way and social media blending hard data with rumors and fake news. The tedious work of screening the scientific literature and the scientific data has to be done – regularly & constantly, like a Swiss watch.

Over the coming months, COVID Reference will be presenting updates on a regular basis and narrating the scientific data as coherently as possible.

Remember Science Magazine. It isn’t fancy.

Bernd Sebastian Kamps & Christian Hoffmann

29th March 2020