Epidemiologist Sir David Skegg discusses Covid-19 lessons for the future at the 2020 Sir Frank Holmes Memorial Lecture

Sir David Skegg gave a successful presentation for the 2020 Sir Frank Holmes Memorial Lecture on Thursday 12 November, in front of around 200 guests. An overflow of attendees watched his presentation from the adjacent lecture theatre.

David Skegg

He spoke about the lessons we can learn from the Covid-19 pandemic, about the reasons for New Zealand’s early success against the virus (but stressed that we can’t afford to be complacent – we will be living with the virus for some time to come), and he reminded the audience that we are still in the middle of a smoking and obesity epidemic.

Sir David Skegg is turning his lecture into an article for the February 2021 issue of Policy Quarterly. It will be available online for free in February from the IGPS website.


Sir David Skegg is an epidemiologist and public health physician. After training in medicine in New Zealand, he was a Rhodes scholar and then a lecturer in epidemiology at the University of Oxford. At the age of 32 he returned to the Chair of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Otago. From 2004 to 2011, he was the Vice-Chancellor of the University.

As well as advising the World Health Organization in Geneva, Professor Skegg has chaired many government bodies, including the Health Research Council, the Public Health Commission, and the Science Board. He was also the President of the Royal Society Te Apārangi, which is the national academy for science, technology and the humanities.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has served as a special adviser to Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee, and has also been called as a witness by the equivalent select committee of the UK House of Commons.