Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is spreading rapidly across China, and as of Feb 16, 2020, had been reported in 26 countries globally. The availability of accurate and robust epidemiological, clinical, and laboratory data early in an epidemic is important to guide public health decision-making. Consistent recording of epidemiological information is important to understand transmissibility, risk of geographic spread, routes of transmission, and risk factors for infection, and to provide the baseline for epidemiological modelling that can inform planning of response and containment efforts to reduce the burden of disease. Furthermore, detailed information provided in real time is crucial for deciding where to prioritise surveillance.
Line list data are rarely available openly in real time during outbreaks. However, they enable a multiplicity of analyses to be undertaken by different groups, using various models and assumptions, which can help build consensus on robust inference. Parallels exist between this and the open sharing of genomic data.