BBC Four Pandemic and something to do this weekend

I just watched the BBC documentary, Contagion: The BBC Four Pandemic. It’s very good and I can’t believe I hadn’t seen or heard of it before. In 2018 the BBC simulated a pandemic across the UK to gather data for mathematical modellers to help with a future pandemic like the one we’re experiencing now. Tens of thousands of volunteers downloaded a smartphone app which recorded their movements and contacts. This provided important data on how quickly a virus could spread and how small changes, like hand washing, could slow it down. It’s remarkable how accurate they were except for one important detail – the virus itself. They modelled it on a flu variant when in actual fact we have a different virus – a coronavirus.

If I’d known about this at the time I’d have taken part. Somehow I missed all the marketing of it. In addition to the BBC pandemic app people could download on their phones, they also created a second app for a small village in England. Everyone with the app installed on their phones could catch the virus and infection happened when they came into close proximity with someone who also had the app and who was already infected. They simulated the spread of the infection throughout the village. It started with patient zero, the mathematician Hannah Fry, who went in and infected 9 people. Those 9 people went on to infect dozens of other people on the first day. It’s fascinating and well worth watching.

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend then you might get inspiration from Joseph Parker’s remake of Hugh Grant’s dance scene from Love Actually.

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