COVID-19 Response: Behind the scenes in Bern and Washington

The inside story on Donald Trump's decision to leave the WHO - Swiss disorganized response in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today in The Geneva Observer: we go behind the scenes, in Washington and in Bern. After having dedicated quite a bit of space to WHO lately we thought you'd be interested to read ProPublica's 'Inside the Trump Administration's decision to leave WHO.

Also, we bring you a long read on Switzerland’s early response to the pandemic. Written by a team of eight reporters, this NZZ am Sonntag investigation made the rounds in early June and created quite a bit of controversy. As questions are being asked about the Swiss government’s decision to lift restrictions, we felt you would be interested in being taken backstage.

One of its most important takeaways? Switzerland might have avoided going into lockdown at an enormous financial cost for the country had the Swiss government heeded earlier the warnings of the scientific community and the WHO. It's a long read, but it is worth it, covering the story in five acts: Outbreak, Response, Procurement, Bailout, and Lobbying.

In it you will read about Marcel Salathé, a Swiss epidemiologist working at EPFL  , complaining about not being listened to by the Swiss government. What changes a few weeks can bring … He was put in charge of the task force behind the SwissCOVID contact tracing app, now available from the app store of your choice!

Contact tracing apps have been an incredibly complex and controversial issue. See our primer from The Markup. This early piece essentially had it right if you consider that over the last week, both the French government and the UK have announced that they were starting from scratch in their effort to find a secure contact tracing app, a"fiasco" " according to the FT. We can understand that policymakers and public health are hoping technology will prevent a repeat should a second wave hit by tracing infected people and breaking the contamination chain. But for many experts, this time pressure only adds to the existing technological problems.

Between technical and privacy issues, the wild-goose chase to develop a contact tracing app may well be Covid-19's iteration of Evgeny Morozov’s ‘Technological Solutionism,’ or as he put it in his book, "to save everything, click . "

It is thus somewhat unsettling to read on the EPFL's very site   that the data risk assessment performed during SwissCovid development phase found the app provided “an adequate level of data security, despite some vulnerabilities that researchers have identified.” (The bold is ours) What is being done to fix them is nowhere to be found in the press release.