Among the ten personalities of 2020 for the renowned Nature magazine are some names who stood out in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic: Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the WHO (World Health Organization), Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand and Anthony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Former Minister of Health and Foreign Affairs in his home country of Ethiopia, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 55, has been responsible for WHO since 2017. However, he didn’t become known until 2020 when he became the spokesman for the news about the new coronavirus, e.g. declaring pandemic status or recommending that countries curb contagion with travel restrictions, extensive testing and isolation from suspected cases.
But the way was not easy. In July, the US, the country most financially contributing to WHO’s operations, warned the agency in a decision by Donald Trump that it would no longer be part of the panel in 2021. The reason would be an agreement between the WHO and China to cover possible responsibilities of the Asian country for the development and spread of the virus, which has not been proven. President-elect Joe Biden has promised to cancel the exit process initiated by Trump.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told Nature that the goal now is to ensure that all countries have access to vaccines. In the midst of the political turmoil, his job will be to stay out of controversy and achieve the new goal.
Also on the list is New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (40), who is one of the world’s leading countries in the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, the country has good numbers: as of this Wednesday (30) there are only 2,151 cases and 25 deaths, with a peak in cases in April eight months ago.
It’s a small country with fewer than 5 million people, but even the relative numbers are enviable. In the Brazilian scenario, the number of cases is almost 80 times worse; that of deaths, more than 170 times worse.
Ardern’s strategy was based on the early adoption of strict measures as well as transparent and clear communication for the population. With no effective drugs to treat Covid-19 and no vaccines available, the country took on the isolation of arriving travelers, intensive contact tracing and lockdowns.
Despite the rise in unemployment from 4% to 5.3% and the huge commitment of resources to fighting the pandemic of 20% of GDP, the majority (80%) of New Zealanders are in favor of Ardern’s measures.
One of the big names of the year, the immunologist Anthony Fauci (79), who has headed the US National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases for decades, had the opportunity to advise six presidents on topics such as HIV, Ebola and Zika, but when Instead of Trump and Covid-19, the challenges have multiplied. Not only did his advice seem heard, it was publicly criticized by Trump.
Fauci has been criticized by scholars for not answering or denying Trump’s unsubstantiated lines, but over time he became more prevalent, leveraging his prestige on science-based methods of dealing with the pandemic such as social distancing and the use of masks . In the end, he survived in office – and even won an imitation of actor Brad Pitt on Saturday night, a token of his popularity.
Even during the pandemic, Fauci did not fail to personally care for patients. You work 18 hours a day, seven days a week, said Nature’s Doctor. “Participating in patients gives a different idea of what the disease really is,” he says. With no plans to retire, Fauci will assume the position of chief doctor of the presidency in Biden’s government.
Four other people selected from nature also contributed to the pandemic. One of them is the Uruguayan virologist Gonzalo Moratorio, 38, from the Pasteur Institute and the University of the Republic, who led the creation of a test to detect the pathogen.
The 62-year-old German Kathrin Jansen is the vaccine guide for Pfizer in the USA. She managed to complete the vaccine launch studies in 210 days between April and November. Prior to the adventure, Jansen had already led efforts that culminated in the introduction of an HPV vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer.
A vaccine against Covid-19 would not be possible if the genetic sequence of the pathogen was not known. And this is where the Chinese Zhang Yongzhen of Zhejiang University comes in, who revealed on January 11th that the causative agent of pneumonia was in fact a coronavirus, a relative of the coronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome) responsible for Sars. , that scared the world in 2003.
In a country where the flow of information tends to be controlled, many scientists thought Zhang’s attitude to reveal the genetic code of the new pathogen was brave.
Seven days later, on January 18, 73-year-old Li Lanjuan and other experts went to Wuhan to investigate the outbreak. A few days later, according to the epidemiologist, a city with 11 million inhabitants was closed, an unprecedented action. The decision turned out to be the right one and Li became the symbol of China’s resistance to the pandemic.
But nature’s list doesn’t just live on Covid-19. The other three places on the list are occupied by the German Verena Mohaupt, a scientist of climate change in the Arctic, and Adi Utarini, an Indonesian scientist who stood firm in the fight against Aedes aegypti, the dengue transmitter, with a bacterium, Wolbachia Gun and Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, an American cosmologist who not only studies the nature of dark matter, but also fights against racism in science and society.