Introduction | Statistics | Diagnostics | Genetics | Vaccines | Preventative measures | Definitions

What is our COVID-19 FAQ series?

Here at PANDORA, we are often asked questions about COVID-19, both directly and on social media. We know that there’s an overwhelming amount of information out there about the disease, so we have created a series of videos answering the frequently asked questions we get about COVID-19. The information that we provide in this series is carefully researched by us, from referenced sources, such as the WHO and African Centres for Disease Control, but presented in a way that makes it accessible for everyone. Alongside the discussion, the videos contain images and short video clips, which should help make the concepts easier to understand.

We have divided the series into a number of short videos arranged by topic, each of which are around 5-10 minutes long. Each video is presented by a member of the PANDORA team. At the bottom of the page is a list of definitions that you might find helpful.

We have added all of the references that we have mentioned in the videos, meaning that you are able to do your own, more in depth, research if you want. We will be releasing a new video each week, so keep your eyes on:

WHO AFRO have created Viral Facts Africa, a first of its kind African initiative, including the WHO, a network of fact-checking organizations and leading public health bodies to combat health misinformation online. Visit their website for up to date information and make sure you know your COVID facts!

Videos, topics and resources

1. Introduction to COVID-19

Video 1.1: Which under lying conditions make you most vulnerable to COVID-19?

Dr John Tembo from HerpeZ in Zambia explains what the risk factors are for catching and getting sick from COVID-19.


Links to the resources mentioned in this video:

Chen et al.

Western Cape Study:

Zambia Mortality Study:

Public Health England study on immunity after covid-19 infection:,risk%20of%20transmitting%20to%20others

Patients with prior exposure to COVID-19 might only need one vaccine dose:


2. COVID-19 Statistics


3. Diagnostics


4. Genetics

Video 4.1: Why is COVID-19 changing and what does it mean for us?

Dr Linzy Elton from The Centre for Clinical Mcirobiology at University College London, UK explains how the virus behind COVID-19 is constantly changing, and what this means for the future. 


Links to the resources mentioned in this video:

The Conversation: what is a virus and how do they spread:

Evolution: why the flu virus changes and mutates:

The Conversation: law of declining  virulence:

Comparative Review of SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and Influenza A Respiratory Viruses:

Moderate mutation rate in the SARS coronavirus genome and its implications (comparison of mutation rates):

Rate of SARS-CoV-2 mutation:

SARS-CoV-2 mutation tracker:

Nature: the coronavirus is mutating: does it matter?:


5. Vaccines


6. Preventative measures



Below are some commonly used words and phrases relating to COVID-19 that we thought you might find helpful when learning about the situation:

COVID-19 - the disease in humans

SARS-CoV-2 - the name of the virus that causes COVID-19

Virus - an infectious agent that needs host cells to replicate inside. They are too small to be seen under a microscope. Other examples are flu, ebola, monkeypox and dengue. You cannot treat a viral infection with antibiotics.

Asymptomatic - If you are asymptomatic, you have COVID-19, but you do not have any symptoms. This can be problematic, as many people (especially younger people) are asymptomatic, so won’t know they are infected, but are still able to transmit COVID-19

Incubation period - the time between when you caught the disease and the appearance of the first symptoms. The incubation period is often when you are mostly likely to transmit COVID-19 to others

Exposure - when you have come into contact with the virus (for instance you have come into contact with someone who has it, or a surface that the virus is present) 

Symptoms - a physical or mental feature which a person may develop if they have COVID-19 (for example a cough, fever or headache)

Sensitivity (in diagnostic tests) - the ability of a test to correctly identify patients with a disease (‘positive’ patients)

Specificity (in diagnostic tests) - the ability of a test to correctly identify people without COVID-19 (‘negative’ patients)

True positive (in diagnostic tests) - when a person has COVID-19 and the test is positive.

True negative (in diagnostic tests) - when a person does not have COVID-19 and the test is negative.

False positive (in diagnostic tests) - when the person does not have COVID-19 and the test is positive.

False negative (in diagnostic tests) - when the person has COVID-19 and the test is negative.

Mortality rate - the number of deaths in a given area or period.

Prevalence - the percentage of people in a population who have COVID-19.

R number - The R number (the ‘reproductive’ number) is a way of assessing COVID-19’s ability to spread. R is the average number of people that one infected person will pass the a virus to. For instance, if a disease has an R number of 15, then one infected person will spread the disease to 15 new people. If the R number is bigger than 1, then the disease will spread, if the R number is below 1, then the disease will decrease.

Variant - a variant of COVID-19 is a new version of the virus, that has changed its genetic material slightly. These changes may cause changes in how the virus spreads, or how it causes disease, or it may not cause any changes. Viruses naturally change their genetic material all the time.

Preventative measures - Preventative measures are steps taken for stop or reduce the spread of disease. For example, these could include wearing masks in public, cleaning your environment more regularly, or physical distancing.

Physical/social distancing - a preventative measure. This is when you keep a certain distance apart from other people (usually in public) to stop the virus jumping between people.

Lockdown - a preventative measure. This is when a country or region stops people meeting each other to reduce the spread of COVID-19. There may be different rules in a lockdown depending on the severity of the disease spread, for instance closing schools, closing all shops, requiring people to wear masks or enforcing social/physical distancing

Self-isolation - like quarantine, a period of time when you stay apart from others, so that you prevent the spread of COVID-19 to other people. This usually applies to one person within their own home

Transmission - the spread of COVID-19 from one person to another

Quarantine -  like self-isolation, a period of time when people who have (or are thought to have) COVID-19 are kept apart from the public.