Tracking the latest coronavirus headlines from the KQ, including resources for researchers, businesses and public.
Updated 10 May 2021
Knowledge Quarter partners are temporarily closed following the Government’s tier 5 announcements, announced on the 4 January 2021, with most organisations set to reopen from 17 May, according to the Government’s roadmap.
Business and Local Government
- Read the latest statements from Camden Council and Islington Council on the national lockdown, which include help lines for emergency food deliveries and financial support.
- As of 23 August 2020 Camden Council had issued 3,850 awards to eligible businesses under the two government business grant schemes, totaling £72.4m. The deadline closed on 28 August. The Council has published extensive guidelines on reopening your business safely.
- Islington Council had been awarded £2.8 million by the Government to distribute to businesses that experienced a significant fall in income as a result of Covid-19, and fell outside the scope of the existing Government business grant schemes. Applications to the Discretionary Grants Fund closed Friday 28 August 2020. More information about available support for your business can be found on their COVID-19 business support page.
- To support the local economy, Islington Council has created a directory listing the businesses in the borough that are still able to safely operate and tradein one form or another.
- 77% of UK manufacturers say that the pandemic has made their business more open to implementing advanced technological innovations such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, the internet of things or 5G, according to new research commissioned by Digital Catapult.
(Published 6 January 2021)
- Islington Council is continuing its campaign of ‘people-friendly streets’, reducing cut-through traffic on targeted roads to allow for safer cycling and social distancing. Canonbury West is the latest ward to experience the 18-month experimental traffic order, with other wards to follow.
(Updated 28 August 2020)
- Arup has released Space Explorer – spatial analysis software that allows businesses to analyse how staff move about their spaces, predict the likeliest points of infectious interaction and plan for the safe reoccupation of a building.
(Published 5 June 2020)
Open Access Resources
- The BMJ‘s Coronavirus Hub is an excellent free resource for news, editorial, features and research reviews on the latest COVID-19 developments.
- The Institute of Physics has a handy COVID-19 resource hub, where you can find the latest free journal articles and related research from the physics community.
- Newest partner The Physiological Society has developed a range of resources on COVID-19, including: a brilliant community-led Q&A page on the various physiological effects of the virus; free access to relevant research papers published in The Journal of Physiology and Experimental Physiology; and a series of free webinars for scientific authors and researchers under lockdown.
- Researchers can make use of Springer Nature‘s new digital library tool that catalogues the most recent published research on all aspects of the coronavirus. And you can also read about how AI was used to develop this tool here.
- The pandemic has sped up a revolution in open access publishing. Funding agencies, including the Wellcome Trust, supporting the open-access (OA) initiative ‘Plan S’ have announced a Rights Retention Strategy that could make it easier for researchers to publish in their journal of choice, bypassing restrictions on open access. Here’s a good breakdown of its significance in Nature.
(Published 15 July 2020)
- Research teams at the Francis Crick Institute and UCL have identified a number of molecules present in higher levels in people infected with COVID-19 which can suppress the binding of antibodies to the coronavirus spike. Using cryo-electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography the teams discovered that the molecule biliverdin could suppress the binding of human antibodies to the spike by as much as 30-50%, rendering some antibodies ineffective at neutralising the virus.
(Published 22 April 2021)
- A common symptom of COVID-19 is the temporary loss of the sense of taste and smell. But according to contributions to a new study from University of London‘s Centre for the Study of Senses these symptoms can last much longer after recovery from COVID-19, with profound consequences on daily life. Two in five sufferers continue to report a diminished sense of smell six months after infection. One in five cases describe familiar and usually pleasant smells such as coffee or frying onions smelling like vomit or sewage (a condition known as parosmia).
(Published 25 March 2021)
- More than half of cancer patients receiving a single dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine may be left with little protection against the virus, according to a new preprint from researchers at the Francis Crick Institute.
(Published 11 March 2021)
- By analysing the structures of the variant strains of the virus and comparing these with the original SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have observed that the variant’s spiked protein would more easily bind to human cells due to its open and flexible structure, as compared to the original virus’s more closed form. While this is initially advantageous for the spread of the mutated virus, researchers suggest that the open and flexible structure leaves it more exposed to circulating antibodies.
(Published 15 February 2021)
- Using cryo-electron microscopy, scientists from the Francis Crick Institute have found important structural similarities between SARS-CoV-2 and a pangolin coronavirus, suggesting that a pangolin coronavirus could potentially jump to humans.
(Published 5 February 2021)
- Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have studied how SARS-CoV-2 impacts the immune system of people with cancer: patients with solid tumors, had a similar immune response to those without cancer, regardless of cancer stage or if they were undergoing treatment. However, the immune response of patients with blood cancers struggled to clear infection of SARS-CoV-2.
(Published 5 January 2021)
- UCL researchers have found that numerous animals may be vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2, according to a large study which predicts possible infection in domestic cats, dogs, mink, lions, and tigers, all of which have had reported cases, as well as ferrets and macaques, which have been infected in laboratory studies.
(Published 5 October 2020)
- In a new paper just published in Nature, researchers at the Francis Crick Institute describe 10 structural states of SARS-CoV-2 which together make up the stages by which the virus’s characteristic spike opens and binds to the enzyme ACE2.
(Published 17 September 2020)
- Wellcome is funding a large study to into how the pandemic has changed antibiotic usage in hospitals, and if there has been any major change in drug resistance. Early evidence suggests this might be the case.
(Published 16 September 2020)
- After analysis of blood samples from 63 patients with SARS-CoV-2, a team of researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have identified unusually high levels of three proteins: IP-10, interleukin-10 and interleukin-6. Patients who displayed measurably higher levels of this ‘triad’ of molecules when first admitted to hospital went on to become more severely ill. The discovery could prove critical in helping doctors triage patients in the event of a second major outbreak in cases.
(Published 20 August 2020)
- An advisory group, including a strong cohort of UCL academics, has published the report ‘Preparing for a challenging winter 2020/21‘, which models what to expect in the coming months with the coronavirus in the UK. The modelling indicates that January and February 2021 may be worse than the wave of hospitalizations seen earlier in the spring. The report lays out a series of recommendations for heading off this severe winter spike in infections.
(Published 14 July 2020)
- A clinical trial co-led by the Francis Crick Institute and UCL will study the potential of cystic fibrosis drug, Dornase alfa, to reduce hyper-inflammation in the lungs, a fatal immune response triggered by COVID-19.
(Published 10 July 2020)
- Using cryo-electron microscopy, researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have discovered key differences between the spiked proteins of SARS-Cov-2 and those of similarly structured bat viruses – a difference which gives the SARS-CoV-2 about a 1,000-fold tighter binding properties to the receptor in humans. The team’s observations also support the theory that the virus was not passed to humans directly from bats, but through another intermediate host.
(Published 9 July 2020)
- Results of a small clinical trial with barcinitib, the drug used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis and identified by Benevolent AI‘s algorithms as a potential treatment for SARS-CoV-2, support expanded clinical studies. According to the paper recently published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, “baricitinib treatment was associated with clinical and radiologic recovery, a rapid decline in SARS ‐CoV‐2 viral load, inflammatory markers, and IL ‐6 levels.”
(Published 1 July 2020)
- Interferon lambda, the instrumental proteins in the body’s anti-viral response and currently employed in clinical trials as a potential treatment for COVID-19, may have an adverse affect on lung tissue repair, according to new research out of the Francis Crick Institute.
(Published 11 June 2020)
- Most immunosuppressants taken to treat Rheumatism do not increase the risk of hospitalisation from COVID-19, according to a large study led by UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology and UCL Centre for Rheumatology.
(Published 4 June 2020)
- Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have found 27 protein biomarkers present in different quantities in individuals infected with COVID-19, depending on the severity of their condition. Testing for these proteins could provide doctors with an early-warning system of a patient’s condition. The researchers also suggest that it may be possible to find drugs that alleviate symptoms associated with the identified proteins.
(Published 2 June 2020)
- How effective has the NHS contact tracing app been? Technical advisors on the project from the Alan Turing Institute have taken a preliminary look at the data and found that for every 1% increase in app users, the number of infections can be reduced by 2.3%.
(Published 9 February 2021)
- A UCL-led report into the online search data of COVID-19 symptoms finds this data can be a valuable public health tool for tracking the clinical progression of diseases, especially before widespread laboratory testing is available.
(Published 8 February 2021)
- In its evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry, the Royal College of Physicians recommended expanding the use of new digital technologies in outpatient care. The pandemic has brought on a revolution in virtual appointments and consultations that the RCP believes should be at the heart of a ‘digital first’ patient care service.
(Published 26 November 2020)
- As part of its ‘Data against Covid-19’, EIT Digital has published the list of ventures and innovation activities that will receive €7.6 million in funding.
(Published 13 August 2020)
- Researches from the Alan Turing Institute have been advising NHSx on the contact tracing app in use on the Isle of Wight. The researchers have been looking at the problem of accurately estimating health risks associated with distance the between a symptomatic user’s app alerting another user within Bluetooth range. Here’s a brief update of their work and a paper currently under review.
(Published 6 July 2020)
- Researchers at the Alan Turing Institute recently published Ethical guidelines for COVID-19 tracing apps, a series of sixteen ethical questions, based on the successes and limitations of existing digital contact tracing measures around the world, that should be foremost in the minds of developers and government officials planning to launch such an app.
(Published 28 May 2020)
- Camden Council is leading a quartet of London local authorities that have received additional funding to share best practice and develop plans to control local coronavirus outbreaks using the Government’s ‘test and trace’ service.
(Published 25 May 2020)
- The Alan Turing Institute has repurposed its work on London’s air quality to provide policy makers with a near-real time picture of activity across London. Project “Odysseus” will generate historic profiles of activity, using multiple data sources, and measure these against a map of current activity to understand how effectively the lockdown and the steps to withdraw from it are working.
(Published 14 May 2020)
- The Alan Turing Institute is working with the Royal Society on the Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic (RAMP) initiative, leading on urban and social simulation models. RAMP is a large network of volunteer data modellers advising government.
(Published 29 April 2020)
- UCL researchers have launched ‘Virus Watch’, a large data study monitoring how easily and in what manner the virus spreads. The team were awarded funding by the UK Research and Innovation, after responding to the recent call for innovative COVID-19 research projects.
(Published 17 April 2020)
Policy, Advocacy and Research
- The Royal College of Physicians is advocating for doctors and clinicians to be given adequate time off to rest and recover from the pressures of the pandemic, after the latest survey of its members and fellows found that only 49% of doctors were getting enough sleep. “Doctors are running on empty,” said RCP president Andrew Goddard. And you will find this echoed in an excellent feature article from the British Medical Association, in which doctors were invited to reflect on the emotional and psychological stresses of the past year, published earlier this month.
(Published 18 February 2021)
- The Department of Health and Social Care has removed a number of non-clinical training modules from the accreditation programme, which returning doctors must complete in order to volunteer as COVID-19 vaccinators. The move comes after pressure from the Royal College of Physicians, which called into question the level of bureaucracy for experienced former clinicians. Matt Hancock announced the decision at the RCP’s Medicine 2021 conference on 7 January.
(Published 7 January 2021)
- Earlier this month, the BMA GP committee England and NHS England agreed an enhanced service for general practices in England to lead the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination programme. The BMA has published details of the rollout and additional guidance for practices online.
(Updated 3 December 2020)
- Braving a holiday abroad? The British Medical Association has produced a very helpful guidance poster to help you travel safely. You can download it and take it on holiday with you.
(Published 29 June 2020)
- A fourth survey from the RCP found just 10 per cent of its members in a state of readiness to resume normal clinical practices, i.e. pre-COVID-19 practices. On the bright side, testing for COVID-19 continues to improve with 97 per cent of respondents saying they were able to access a test. Read more of the survey results.
(Published 8 June 2020)
- The RCP had been pushing the government to exempt international NHS and social care staff, including their spouses and dependents, from the International Health Surcharge, in recognition of the vital role they played in the frontline response to COVID-19. Commenting on the Government’s u-turn on the issue, Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the RCP, said: ‘We are delighted to see the government have paid heed to our calls for health and social care staff to be exempt from the immigration health surcharge. It has never made sense to make the very people whose jobs it is to care for our nation pay inordinate charges to access care. But the government’s job isn’t done yet.’
(Published 16 May 2020)
- The Coronavirus Global Response fund recently met Wellcome‘s initial target sum of $8 billion to fund the research and development of a vaccine. Meanwhile, Wellcome‘s on-going COVID-Zero campaign has raised $600 million to date from among businesses.
(Published 7 May 2020)
- The RCP launches #doctorsdiaries, an open call for stories from the medical staff working on the frontlines of COVID-19. Individual stories of “resilience, hardship, positivity and pride of being at the centre of this pandemic” will be stitched together in an instructive documentary toolkit for medical staff and patients.
(Published 16 April 2020)
Please help support the use of appropriate face coverings by downloading and sharing this infographic from the British Medical Association in your organisations and on social media.
Vaccines, Testing and PPE
- Camden Council‘s new vaccine bus will tour communities to make it as convenient as possible for residents to get vaccinated.
(Published 27 April 2021)
- Vaccine enthusiasm is on the rise, as UCL‘s large Virus Watch study of 46,000 households reports; hesitancy over taking the vaccine dropped from 9% in December to just 1% in February, with the drop consistent across classes and ethnicities.
(Published 24 March 2021)
- The UCL and UCLH team behind the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device for COVID patients have won the 2020 Health Service Journal Award for Acute Innovation of the Year for engineering a ‘just-in-time’ COVID-19 solution.
(Published 18 March 2021)
- A COVID-19 vaccination centre is now in operation at the Francis Crick Institute. People over 80, at-risk individuals in priority groups and frontline healthcare staff are among the first to be vaccinated at the site.
(Published 22 January 2021)
- Camden Council is now offering free Lateral Flow Tests for people who do not have Covid-19 symptoms and must leave the house for work.
(Published 18 January 2021)
- UCL will undertake up to 1,000 Covid-19 antigen tests a day for staff and students who experience coronavirus symptoms, from start of term on 28 September.
(Published 16 September 2020)
- UCL research into the UK’s only ‘COVID-free’ surgical site at UCLH suggests that it is safe to perform important surgeries during the pandemic at special facilities. Monitoring the health of 500 patients who underwent cancer operations at the site between 5 March and 22 April (during the height of coronavirus admissions), the researchers found that only two per cent of patients had subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 after 30 days, while no deaths were reported.
(Published 17 June 2020)
- The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have collaborated on a document of principles and recommendations for the “reset of outpatient services”. The series of measures stress the use of new technologies so that care is provided on the basis of outcomes for patients, rather than levels of face-to-face activity that put the patient at risk of catching COVID-19.
(Published 4 June 2020)
- Arup has produced CareBox, a downloadable set of designs and procedures for the rapid deployment of a range of modular pop-up wards, or ‘plug-in hospitals’. While the drop in ICU admissions has given hospitals some respite, temporary infrastructure projects could be prepared in advance of a potential second wave of cases.
(Published 1 May 2020)
- The Francis Crick Institute has produced a set of downloadable Standard Operating Procedures for undertaking COVID-19 testing. The procedures cover five stand-alone work streams in a diagnostic pipeline, allowing for an agile approach that can make use of lab-space distributed across a research institution.
(Published 9 April 2020, updated 8 June 2020)
- The Royal College of Physicians (RCP), with Public Health England, has published guidance on the safest level of PPE to protect medical staff and specifies the type of PPE that should be worn in various healthcare settings.
(Published 2 April 2020)
- Central Saint Martins has been challenging its student and staff to make washable fabric face masks for the general public and scrubs for NHS workers. The university has created comprehensive guidelines for making scrubs, which other organisations might wish to download.
(Published 1 April 2020)
- The British Library and the Francis Crick Institute have ramped up support for testing. As many as 300 scientists have refocussed their work to carrying out essential diagnostic tests in the lab. And a new drive-through swabbing facility for NHS staff is in operation at the British Library.
(Published 16 March 2020)
- A new report co-authored by researchers at UCL and City, University of London details how people with pre-existing mental health conditions have been affected by the pandemic, citing challenges such as a lack of social connectedness and meaningful activities, health concerns, loss of structure, reduced independence and financial hardships, in addition to reduced access to services.
(Published 27 April 2021)
- Fewer than 1 in 10 people say they are sleeping well during the Covid-19 lockdown, according to the latest figures from UCL‘s Covid-19 Social Study.
(Published 26 March 2021)
- The Anna Freud Centre, along with app developer MeeToo, has been awarded £300,000 from Innovate UK to develop and evaluate a peer support app for young people that provides early intervention for those struggling with issues surrounding mental health.
(Published 17 February 2021)
- A survey of 30,000 adults finds that younger women were most likely to report an increase in alcohol consumption during the first few months of lockdown. The survey’s lead author, UCL‘s Dr Claire Garnett, said: “Women might be more likely to drink more than usual during lockdown because they have been more negatively affected by the pandemic through increased gender inequalities as women are more likely to lose their jobs and carry the burdens of increased childcare and housework.”
(Published 14 January 2021)
- Latest findings extracted from UCL‘s ongoing research into life under lock down show a severe strain in our personal relationships. A quarter of respondents report a decline in relationships with colleagues, and roughly 20 per cent of respondents believe their relationships with the people they live with, including partners and children, have worsened.
(Published 16 July 2020)
- The Anna Freud Centre has published online a wealth of guidance and resources to support young people’s mental health in this period of disruption and uncertainty.
- Working with the National Association of Head Teachers, the Anna Freud Centre has published guidance and recommendations to help schools support their pupils whose mental health and well-being may have been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
(Published 6 July 2020)
Education and Community
- Google is expanding the Google News Initiative to support local news outlets and online journalists, while the pandemic means services remain in demand but revenues continue to fall – the expansion includes new international workshops and programmes aimed at, among other things, spotting COVID-19 misinformation and boosting ad sales.
(Published July 8 2020)
- Following this survey of the museums and galleries sector, Art Fund has announced a major revision to its funding programme, making more than £2 million available in support for re-opening and beyond, through its Respond and Reimagine Grants and strategic partnerships.
(Published 16 June 2020)
- You can now download and read a summary report of Art Fund‘s research into how the arts and heritage sector has been affected by the coronavirus and how funding bodies can best support the sector, and in which 85 per cent of those surveyed were concerned about how to encourage visitors back into the building once they re-opened.
- (Published 28 May 2020)
- Zoom gloom: Reflecting on some fascinating research, City, University of London‘s Professor André Spicer describes the various ways in which we are not yet emotionally or mentally equipped to handle a life of video conference calls.
(Published 13 May 2020)
- Mansplaining: Academics at City, University of London found that in March media coverage of the coronavirus “nearly three times as many expert men as women were interviewed. This is a much higher ratio than usual.”
(Published 4 May 2020)
Humanities, Arts and Media
- Conway Hall, Foundling Museum, Jewish Museum, Kings Place and The Place were among several KQ partners to receive funding from second round of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.
(Published 2 April 2021)
- Camden Council is taking work experience online, and is seeking more employers to offer the opportunity to local young people.
- Camden Council also has a donation drive for spare technology and devices to help fix the technology divide affecting children who are studying at home.
- Google News Initiative is launching a COVID-19 Vaccine Counter-Misinformation Open Fund worth up to $3 million. The Open Fund is looking to fund projects around the world that actively debunk harmful lies about vaccination, particularly among audiences who are disproportionately targeted with misinformation campaigns.
(Published 12 January 2021)
- UCL is part of a coalition of institutions surveying state-level legal responses to the pandemic around the world. The project, Lex-Atlas: Covid-19, will analyze and compare the impacts of new or amended laws relating to human rights and the protection of vulnerable groups in 60 different countries.
(Published 25 November 2020)
- A new issue of The Stay at Home Garden pack from Global Generation features an abundance of colourful new creative activities for your children.
(Published 7 July 2020)
- Aga Khan Foundation UK has distilled its educational work in 18 different countries into a curated support pack to help families navigate the online educational resources available for children learning from home.
(Published 19 June 2020)
- To help vulnerable students access online learning Camden Council is encouraging businesses in the borough to donate spare laptops and iPads. You can donate any surplus tech here.
- (Published 23 April 2020)
- A new series of blogs from children’s mental health experts at the Anna Freud Centre will consider the psychological and emotional effects of the pandemic on children, and the strategies and opportunities available to look after them.
(Published 22 April 2020)
Surveys (Some may be closed)
- Art Fund has launched a new COVID-19 survey aimed at professionals in the museums and galleries sector. Responses will help the organisation pinpoint the financial, marketing and professional support that is of most value to the sector during this time.
(Published 8 February 2021)
- Researchers at UCL are recruiting up to 3000 people to sing, chant or hum as part of an aerosol droplet test, to establish the risk of transmitting Covid-19 in a place of worship or similar faith setting.
- Camden Council invites business owners to take part in their latest business survey. Help the Council understand the impact of COVID-19 on your business and inform their future economic re-start and recover plans.
- The Royal Veterinary College is undertaking a survey to investigate the impact of COVID-19 lockdown on cat and dog owners, the relationship they have with their pets, as well as quality of life for pets and pet behaviour. If you have cat or dog, you can take part in the survey here.
- COVID-19 Social Study, from UCL, is a large ongoing survey measuring the emotional and psychological effects of the pandemic on adults in the UK. You can take part anonymously here.
- Another survey you can take part in: University of London has initiated a global survey to confirm one of the most widely cited symptoms of the coronavirus – loss of smell. UoL‘s Centre for Study of Senses is leading the survey, in which you, or someone you’d like to share this with, can participate anonymously here.
- Pandemic Puppies: And if you have bought a puppy since January 2019, then the Royal Veterinary College wants to hear from you. A survey on puppy buying experiences will compare how and why puppies were bought both before and during the pandemic, to better understand the factors driving the huge spike in demand for puppies since the start of lockdown.