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Houston we have a problem: coronavirus!

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The words ‘Houston we have a problem’ were made famous by a film about the USA’s Apollo 13 mission, though, in fact, it is a misquote of the words spoken by John Swigert to the NASA Mission Control Centre. His actual words were ‘Houston we’ve had a problem’. He was reporting an explosion in an oxygen tank on board the Apollo 13 spacecraft that was due to land on the moon in 1970. The challenge then began as how to manage the emergency. Amazingly, the crew all made it back safely to earth after aborting the moon landing. Such an event shifts a paradigm where many previously held values are no longer valid.

Similarly, we are experiencing a paradigm shift as we are facing a life-threatening situation with the novel coronavirus that was first reported in China at the end of January. Cities in China have been locked down and international travel …

Correspondence to Professor Philip Wiffen, Pain Research Unit, Churchill Hospital, Oxford OX3 7LE, UK; pwiffen{at}

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