How Covid-19 happened and charting the path forward

As the world continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, here’s a captivating, authoritative, and eye-opening full story of how and why it happened.

With the accumulated knowledge of our failings and a wealth of expert opinions, veteran science journalist Debora MacKenzie charts a forward path in “COVID-19 – The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened, and How to Stop the Next One” for protecting humanity from even worse threats to come.

Over the last 30 years of epidemics and pandemics, we learned every lesson needed to stop this coronavirus outbreak in its tracks. We heeded almost none of them — and the previous viruses that should have prepared us. This, coupled with some shocking public health failures, paved the way for a pandemic on a scale never before seen in our lifetimes, the book, published by Hachette, says.

MacKenzie has been reporting on emerging diseases for more than three decades, and she draws on that experience to explain how Covid-19 went from a potentially manageable outbreak to a global pandemic.

Offering a compelling history of the most significant recent outbreaks, including SARS, MERS, H1N1, Zika, and Ebola, she gives a crash course in Epidemiology 101 – how viruses spread and how pandemics end – and outlines the lessons we failed to learn from each past crisis.

In vivid detail, MacKenzie takes us through the arrival and spread of Covid-19, making clear the steps that governments knew they could have taken to prevent or at least prepare for this.

Looking forward, she makes a bold, optimistic argument: this pandemic might finally galvanise the world to take viruses seriously. Fighting this pandemic and preventing the next one will take political action of all kinds, globally, from governments, the scientific community, and individuals – but it is possible.

“This definitely deserves a read – the first of the post-mortems by a writer who knows what she’s talking about,” says Laura Spinney, author of “Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 And How It Changed The World”.

MacKenzie, who has been reporting on Covid-19 from the start, was among the first journalists to suggest that it could become a pandemic.

From SARS to Rabies and Ebola to AIDS, she’s been on the frontline in reporting on how pandemics form, why they spread, and how to stop them throughout her career. In addition to infectious disease, she also specialises in reporting on the science of complexity and social organisation.

In 2010, she won the American Society for Microbiology Public Communication Award. Before becoming a journalist, she worked as a biomedical researcher.