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COVID-19: UCL academics mobilise to provide critical advice and expert comment

30 March 2020

As coronavirus spreads around the world, UCL experts are taking a prominent role in advancing public knowledge about the virus by advising world leaders, providing expert comment in the media and urgently researching new ways of tackling COVID-19.

Coronavirus experts

A key strength of the UCL community is its ability to work across disciplines and with colleagues, partners and industry to help address the biggest challenges facing the world today.

UCL researchers are working in the vanguard of helping find cure, improving diagnosis and are advising Government here in the UK and globally. In addition, they are helping to inform public knowledge by providing expert comment on issues as varied as predictions on virus spread, panic buying and stockpiling, broadband provision, and the economic and political impact of the pandemic.

Professor Judith Breuer (UCL Division of Infection & Immunity) is advising the Government on the use of viral genomics to help control the outbreak, and Professor Susan Michie (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) is advising the UK government-convened advisory group, the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behavioural Science (SPI-B): 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID19).

Professor Rachel McKendry (London Centre for Nanotechnology at UCL and i-sense) and Professor Ingemar Cox (UCL Computer Science) are leading a team developing rapid tests and tracking systems for COVID-19 in collaboration with the World Health Organization, Public Health England and Africa CDC, while Professor Martina Micheletti (UCL Biochemical Engineering) is working with Oxford colleagues to develop a potential vaccine.

Others at UCL are working on monitoring people who have been tested, predicting the outbreak’s future, and developing digital platforms for community-based care.

Here in UCL in the Media, we feature the work of UCL colleagues who are providing critical advice and expert comment to world leaders and the public on COVID-19 and its impact through numerous appearances on TV, radio, print and online news sources:

 

  • Drug policy and coronavirus Those using drugs problematically need support during the current Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, as they are amongst the most vulnerable members of society, argues a letter to the Times signed by Honorary Clinical Reader Dr Adam Winstock (UCL Epidemiology & Health). (30 March 2020) Read: Times (£)
  • Estate agents likely badly affected by Covid-19 A slowdown in the housing market due to Covid-19 would impact the estate agent market as well “unless they can access government help for businesses quickly to sustain themselves,” says Honorary Professor Noble Francis (UCL Bartlett School of Construction & Project Management). (27 March 2020) Read: Guardian
  • How to cope with children under lockdown With children off school and under lockdown, parents should cut themselves some slack on ways of coping, including relaxing rules on screen time as “we all need to get through this period, and we all need to stay sane,” says Dr Alice Bradbury (UCL Institute of Education). (24 March 2020) Read: Grazia, More: MSN News
  • Preventing and containing Covid-19 outbreaks in prisons Reducing Covid-19 coronavirus spread by “moving the most vulnerable prisoners to less-crowded parts of the prison system, where outbreaks are easier to prevent and contain…could save many lives,” Explains Professor Andrew Hayward (UCL Epidemiology & Health). (23 March 2020) Read: Guardian
  • Coronavirus shows holes in UK pandemic planning  The density of London’s population could prove a challenge for any potential lockdown, and the current Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is showing the holes in current UK pandemic planning, Explains Professor David Alexander (UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction). (23 March 2020) Read: Telegraph (£)
  • Don’t overburden children during Covid-19 isolation Parents should resist the urge to over-educate their children whilst schools are closed, instead making sure to encourage them to pursue their interests and hobbies as well as completing set school work, says Dr Sandra Leaton Gray (UCL Institute of Education). (23 March 2020) Read: Times (£)
  • Government economic response needs to go further The Government response to Covid-19 doesn’t go far enough to stop an economic collapse, with self-employed workers needing support and universal credit unable to cope with new demand, argues a letter signed by Laurie Macfarlane (UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose). (23 March 2020) Read: Times (£)
  • How to care for homeless with coronavirus Agencies should stop bringing homeless people into shared spaces, instead supporting them on the street and opening places where they can be tested for symptoms, explains Professor Andrew Hayward (UCL Epidemiology & Health). (20 March 2020) Read: New Statesman
  • Covid-19 smartphone app may not be as simple as it seems Dr Hannah Fry (UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis) explains the pitfalls of an app which monitors Covid-19 coronavirus, saying “It's not as simple as 'Have you crossed paths with someone who has the virus.' You can sit within a few meters of someone and not be at risk.” (18 March 2020) Read: Mail Online
  • Coronavirus “likely to be here to stay” COVID-19 coronavirus is likely to remain in the population in the long-term, but fatalities are expected to go down as an increasing proportion of the population builds up immunity to the virus, explains Professor Francois Balloux (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment). (9 March 2020) Read: Telegraph (£) 
  • UK not prepared for a pandemic Public Health England would be overrun if the COVID-19 coronavirus reached pandemic levels, especially as most factories for crucial supplies are in China or Southeast Asia, explains Dr Gordon Woo (UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction). (17 February 2020) Read: Times (£) 
  • Coronavirus not far off becoming a pandemic “The 2019-nCov coronavirus outbreak has already surpassed its cousin Sars in terms of the number of cases confirmed,” explains Dr Jennifer Rohn (UCL Medicine) who argues the outbreak is close to being declared a pandemic. (5 February 2020) Read: Guardian 
  • Coronavirus prevention must learn SARS lessons “Several unique opportunities to perform studies and evaluations of a range of therapeutic and preventive interventions at the peak of the SARS and MERS outbreaks were lost due to delays,” explains Professor Ali Zumla (UCL Infection & Immunity). (30 January 2020) Read: Globe & Mail 

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  • Top row (l-r): Professor Martina Micheletti, Professor David Alexander, Dr Jennifer Rohn, Professor Francois Balloux, Professor Rachel McKendry, Professor Judith Breuer. Middle row (l-r): Professor Susan Michie, Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Professor Christina Pagel, Professor Helene Joffe, Professor Rose Luckin, Dr Brian Klaas. Bottom row (l-r): Dr Hannah Fry, Professor Kate Jones, Professor David Lomas, Professor Rebecca Shipley, Professor Anthony Costello, Professor Dame Anne Johnson