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

21 January 2021

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.

Collage of UCL Covid-19 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:

  • Our children are in crisis and need help During Covid-19, young people are suffering from increased poverty and illness, a situation which could be averted by an independent commission, argues an open letter signed by Dr Lee Hudson (UCL GOS Institute of Child Health) and Dr Bonamy Oliver (UCL Institute of Education). (18 January 2021) Read: Guardian
  • Will there be enough Covid-19 vaccines? While manufacturing enough Covid-19 vaccines will be a challenge, “It’s an advantage that they’re all using different technologies so they’re not competing for the same reagents and other supplies of materials,” says Dr Stephen Morris (UCL Biochemical Engineering). (18 January 2021) Read: Huffington Post
  • New Covid-19 cases may have peaked in UK Despite difficulty in interpreting the data due to fluctuations in testing and sampling, “when you model the underlying incidence and prevalence, then it looks as if new cases [of Covid-19] have now peaked,” says Professor Karl Friston (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology). (15 January 2021) Read: Guardian
  • Majority complying with lockdown rules Despite emphasis on people breaking the current Covid-19 lockdown rules, more than 80 per cent of people say they are abiding by them, say Professor Susan Michie (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) and Dr Daisy Fancourt (UCL Epidemiology & Health). (12 January 2021) Read: i News
  • How will Covid-19 impact the City of London? While the Covid-19 pandemic has led many people to predict the death knell for huge offices like the ones in the City of London, Professor Peter Rees (UCL Bartlett School of Planning) says this is unlikely, and that “The City has always been adapting…its only constant is change.” (11 January 2021) Read: Guardian
  • UK Covid-19 variant was flagged quickly Due to ongoing efforts to track mutations to Covid-19 and assess their impact, the recently discovered UK variant was quickly flagged as a potential cause of concern, says Dr Lucy Van Dorp (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment). (11 January 2021) Read: BBC News
  • Vaccines not Covid-19 ‘silver bullet’ The public must be informed that vaccination will not end the Covid-19 pandemic, and that once vaccinated people will need to continue with other measures, say Professor Susan Michie (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) and Professor Deenan Pillay (UCL Infection & Immunity). (8 January 2021) Read: i News
  • The rise of Covid-19 scientist merchandise The popularity of merchandise featuring Professor Chris Whitty is unsurprising as "We are always struggling to find something to explain things, so...they have become brand ambassadors," says Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences). (6 January 2021) Read: BBC News
  • Testing vital to halt Covid-19 spread Up to 500,000 people a day present with coronavirus-like symptoms every winter, with or without a pandemic, meaning getting tested is absolutely vital to ensure minimal Covid-19 spread, says Professor Andrew Hayward (UCL Epidemiology & Health). (17 December 2020) Read: Metro
  • Should you visit your family this Christmas? Dr Lena Ciric (UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering) warns against visiting family members over Christmas, saying Covid-19 cases are rising and it will be very hard to take adequate precautionary measures to protect vulnerable relatives over the festive period. (17 December 2020) Read: Conversation
  • More data needed on new Covid-19 variant Current knowledge of the new variant of Covid-19 is limited, but there is no data to suggest it is evading immunity in population or behaving differently to the other variants, says Professor Judith Breuer (UCL Infection & Immunity). (16 December 2020) Read: Mail Online
  • Covid-19 cases rise sharply in London Boroughs dense with housing being busier than usual due to people working from home, coupled with a move into tier 2 in December, created conditions which could “supercharge the spread” of Covid-19, explains Professor James Cheshire (UCL Geography). (15 December 2020) Read: Guardian
  • Some common cold antibodies could work against Covid-19 The s2 subunit, which lets Covid-19 into cells, is sufficiently similar to the same subunit in common cold coronaviruses for some antibodies to work against both, finds research co-authored by Honorary Reader Dr George Kassiotis (UCL Infection & Immunity). (14 December 2020) Read: Mirror
  • Christmas family gatherings risky for older relatives With families facing ‘heart breaking’ choices over spending time with elderly relatives at Christmas, Professor Susan Michie (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) says there is a big risk for older people mixing with younger relatives who have not self-isolated. (11 December 2020) Read: Metro
  • Vaccine approval not about UK “coming first” The statements which frame the UK approval of the first Covid-19 vaccine as “the UK coming ‘first in some race’” are unwise, and downplay the diligence with which the approvals process works, says Professor Derek Hill (UCL Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering). (3 December 2020) Read: i News
  • Redesigning our cities and lives post-pandemic Commenting on the potential of the Covid-19 pandemic to transform our much-loved metropolises into greener, quieter spaces, Dr Manos Chaniotakis (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) says it has forced us to reshape the way we live. (2 December 2020) Read: Telegraph (£)
  • How to sleep well in a pandemic The Covid-19 pandemic means that some usual rules of good-quality sleep may not apply, for example clutter may make people feel safer and lead to better quality sleep even though the usual advice is to declutter bedrooms, says Dr Dagmara Dimitriou (UCL Institute of Education). (30 November 2020) Read: Telegraph (£)
  • Christmas in the time of Covid-19 Mixing with fewer people over Christmas is the safest option to prevent the spread of the virus, and Christmas carollers should keep their distance from front doors, says Professor Dame Anne Johnson (UCL Institute for Global Health) in an article on having a Covid-safe Christmas. (30 November 2020) Read: Telegraph (£)
  • What went wrong with the first Covid-19 lockdown Senior Research Fellow Oksana Pyzik (UCL School of Pharmacy) warns that the new tier system in the UK must learn from the mistakes of the rush back to normality that followed the initial Covid-19 lockdown to avoid driving the R number back up. (27 November 2020) Watch: Sky News
  • Rich countries must help vaccinate poorer nations against Covid-19 vaccinating everyone is a global responsibility and if rich countries buy up vaccines, leaving Covid-19 to “run rampant” in less well-off parts of the world it will lead to the virus spreading back across borders, says Senior Research Fellow Oksana Pyzik (UCL School of Pharmacy). (27 November 2020) Read: CGTN
  • Coughs and sneezes don’t “get rid of viruses” The belief that coughing or sneezing is a way of ejecting viruses is conjecture, and “it seems more likely that respiratory viruses… have evolved to make us cough and sneeze to transmit the virus in an effective way,” says Professor Greg Towers (UCL Infection & Immunity). (24 November 2020) Read: Mail Online
  • Mask-wearing in schools must be handled well Schools would “need to educate, they would need to tell children, they would need to reassure children as to what is going on and why it is happening,” with regards to mask-wearing to help prevent Covid spread in schools, says Dr Gavin Morgan (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences). (24 November 2020) Read: BBC News
  • Second Covid-19 lockdown appears to be working Commenting on England’s second lockdown, Professor Christina Pagel (UCL Mathematics) says the Covid-19 infection rate’s current decline is due to measures in the north-west and impact in the south-east should be seen in the next few days. (20 November 2020) Read: Guardian
  • Covid-19 highlights racial inequalities in health Research into how discrimination affects the health experiences of minority groups shows that living in a racist environment can be harmful to all black people’s health even without direct experience, says Dr Delan Devakumar (UCL Institute of Global Health). (20 November 2020) Read: Economist (£)
  • Defining and researching long Covid fatigue As long Covid is a new phenomenon, it’s not yet known whether it’s similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, or more similar to the fatigue of multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, says Professor Elizabeth Murray (UCL Epidemiology & Health). (19 November 2020) Read: Guardian
  • How to tackle Covid-19 vaccine misinformation Some people feel Covid-19 vaccines are being rushed or improperly tested, and it’s important the public is reassured that “there’s a strict regime of how vaccines are trialled and then approved,” says Professor Helen Bedford (UCL GOS Institute of Child Health). (17 November 2020) Read: i News
  • We’re making our own rules this lockdown Professor Susan Michie (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) says she has seen few signs of 'compliance fatigue' from lockdown restrictions, but that people are likely to improvise when the rules are too complicated or seem unfair. (11 November 2020) Read: The Times (£)
  • Could a Covid vaccine bring back normality? In a feature report highlighting global attempts to combat Covid-19, the FLARE trial led by Professor David Lowe (UCL Institute of Immunity & Transplantation), which aims to see if favipiravir and lopinavir/ritonavir can inhibit viral replication in early infection, is mentioned. (9 November 2020) Read: The Observer
  • Covid-19 mutations require risk mitigation Mutations in the Covid-19 virus found in minks would not render all potential vaccines ineffective, but shows that surveillance and precautionary risk mitigation are needed to ensure the pandemic can be brought under control, says Professor Joanne Santini (UCL Biosciences). (6 November 2020) Read: Wall Street Journal (£)
  • More funding for medical research urgently needed A letter signed by Professor Nishi Chaturvedi (UCL MRC Unit for Lifelong Health & Ageing) urges the government to fund medical research and help make up the shortfall caused by the 40% cut to research funding provided by UK medical research charities this year due to Covid-19. (28 October 2020) Read: Times (£)
  • Home UV sterilisers may not combat Covid-19 UV lights marketed as sterilisers for mobile phones won’t abide by the strict regulations of those used in hospitals and it would be difficult to know if they’re actually doing anything of note, warns Dr Lena Ciric (UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering). (27 October 2020) Read: i News
  • Czech Republic sees Covid-19 cases soar Professor Hynek Pikhart (UCL Epidemiology & Health) explains that Covid-19 cases are rising in the Czech Republic as restrictions were relaxed too quickly due to opinion polls which showed the public were strongly against lockdown measures. (27 October 2020) Read: Telegraph (£)
  • Treating healthcare workers as heroes is unhelpful The narrative of health workers as ‘heroes’ or ‘angels’ during Covid-19 is unhelpful, as it paints a picture of people doing things because they’re special, rather than workers doing a job that needs adequate pay and protection, argues Dr Jo Billings (UCL Psychiatry). (26 October 2020) Read: BBC News
  • How can we learn to live with Covid-19? In the long term, we are likely to reach a similar situation with Covid-19 to that we currently have with the common cold, with short-term immunity and reinfections which are either weaker or held at bay with recurring vaccinations, says Dr Jennifer Rohn (UCL Medicine). (26 October 2020) Read: Times (£)
  • Experts criticise herd immunity in letter Eighty experts including Professor Karl Friston (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology), Professor Christina Pagel (UCL Mathematics) and Professor Deenan Pillay (UCL Infection & Immunity) have criticised the herd immunity strategy for handling Covid-19 in a letter. (15 October 2020) Read: Mail Online 
  • By focusing on numbers we can lose sight of people Dr Hannah Fry (UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis) praises New Zealand’s approach to Covid-19 and says more intellectual humility would benefit world leaders, adding “if you are totally focused on the numbers, you can lose sight of what’s best for people.” (13 October 2020) Read: Telegraph (£) 
  • Chinese experts proud of China’s Covid-19 measures Professor Dabo Guan (UCL Bartlett School of Construction & Project Management) explains that many Chinese people are proud of how the Chinese Government has handled the Covid-19 pandemic, adding “Many of my friends who are professors say we did well, we set an example.” (12 October 2020) Read: Guardian 
  • Resistance to lockdown rules is not just ‘fatigue’  In a letter to the Guardian, Professor Nigel Harvey (UCL Brain Sciences) says the World Health Organisation’s references to ‘pandemic fatigue’ are misleading, adding, “Pandemic fatigue is no more a real phenomenon now than behavioural fatigue was in March.” (12 October 2020) Read: Guardian 
  • Are pubs and bars to blame for Covid spread? Commenting on data suggesting that 41% of under-30s with coronavirus, caught it in a pub or bar, Dr David Alexander and Dr Ilan Kelman (both UCL Risk & Disaster Reduction) say the venues’ actual contribution to virus spread is unknown and largely depends on people’s behaviour. (9 October 2020) Read: Mail Online
  • Covid-19 deaths 3.4 times higher than flu and pneumonia Professor Andrew Hayward (UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health) explains the latest ONS data and adds “You cannot necessarily [see] it from these data, because they do not show the number of infections, but Covid-19 has a much higher case fatality rate than influenza." (9 October 2020) Read: Guardian 
  • Covid-19 lockdowns easier at campus universities Highly localised lockdowns at universities to stem the spread of Covid-19 are far easier at campus-based universities, rather than those in London which tend to have buildings dispersed throughout the city, argues Professor Claire Callender (UCL Institute of Education). (8 October 2020) Read: Evening Standard
  • What drugs are being used to treat President Trump? Commenting on some of the drugs President Trump is trialling to treat his case of Coronavirus, Professor Derek Hill (UCL Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering) says the President’s use of Remdesivir is not an indication of the severity of his condition. (5 October 2020) Read: Times (£)
  • Men overwhelmingly dominate the decision-making on Covid-19 A global health tracker run by UCL researchers including Professor Sarah Hawkes (UCL Institute of Global Health) has found that out of 115 advisory bodies from 87 countries, only 11% included women. The authors said the results reinforce unequal power structures. (2 October 2020) Read: CNN  
  • How to end the pandemic this year Professor Mariana Mazzucato (UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose) discusses ways countries could redirect funding to support local testing centres for Covid-19, in addition to vaccine research and development, and recommends nations adopt long-term plans. (2 October 2020) Read: Project SyndicateMore: UCL News 
  • Scientific advisors “not scaremongering” Recent worst-case scenario estimates of Covid-19 infections by Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance weren’t a prediction of the course of the virus and were “not scaremongering” says Professor Robert West (UCL Epidemiology & Health). (1 October 2020) Read: FT (£)
  • Expect more ‘testing chaos’ this winter Dr Amitava Banerjee (UCL Institute of Health Informatics) explains that due to the similar symptoms Covid-19 shares with the common flu, health officials can expect to see an increase in the number of patients reporting what they think may be the coronavirus. (30 September 2020) Read: Express 
  • Prime Minister apologises for misunderstanding Covid-19 rules Dr Daisy Fancourt (UCL Epidemiology & Health) explains Prime Minster Boris Johnson’s misunderstanding of the latest Covid-19 restrictions adds to public confusion and his statements “not only exacerbate this problem but also highlight problems with the rules themselves.” (30 September 2020) Read: Metro 
  • Controlling Covid-19 during the winter months Dr Jennifer Rohn (UCL Medicine) discusses rising Covid-19 infection rates, expectations for the virus in the colder weather, and experiments with guidelines to control the coronavirus as the global death toll passes one million. (29 September 2020) Watch: Bloomberg
  • Supply problems deter drug dealers in lockdown Dr Adam Winstock (UCL Epidemiology & Health) comments on the recent Global Drug Survey which found that the availability of drugs had decreased during the pandemic, saying lockdown restrictions may have changed the behaviour of some drug users. (29 September 2020) Read: Times (£) 
  • The truth behind false negative Covid-19 results Professor Deenan Pillay (UCL Infection & Immunity) explains that false negative results for the coronavirus could appear due to the quality of the swab that is taken, and adds that not thoroughly swabbing patients for the virus could contribute to the issue. (28 September 2020) Read: Huffington Post 
  • What do scientists think of the PM's Covid-19 plan? Professor Dame Anne Johnson (UCL Infection & Immunity) comments on the Prime Minister’s new rules which allow businesses to stay open and households to socialise, saying that swifter action may need to be taken to control the coronavirus. (28 September 2020) Read: BBC News 
  • The impact of Covid-19 on the housing market Professor Yolande Barnes (UCL Bartlett Real Estate Institute) says that detached homes in good areas are likely to increase in value during the Covid-19 pandemic, whilst poorly built flats in tower blocks are not only losing value, but are also proving harder to sell in general. (25 September 2020) Read: Times (£)
  • Why do we panic-buy loo roll? Commenting on the psychology of the coronavirus panic-buying phenomenon, Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) says people are returning to protective and nesting behaviours as winter looms and the disease spreads. (23 September 2020) Read: Telegraph (£)
  • Interview: Professor Susan Michie Professor Susan Michie (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) discusses the flaws in the Conservative government’s response to Covid-19 and its failure to build trust through honest communication, in an interview for The Observer. (21 September 2020) Read: Guardian
  • The Covid-19 pandemic didn’t solve climate change Professor Ilan Kelman (UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction) contributes to a debate on whether the lockdowns begun by the coronavirus pandemic have affected climate change’s impact on the environment and adds “Climate change is not stopping because of lockdowns.” (18 September 2020) Read: CNN
  • UK two weeks from losing control of virus Professor Karl Friston (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) explains that the most recent mathematical modelling has shown the UK has two to three weeks to get the testing system under control and calls for specialised health teams to be tasked with monitoring infections. (18 September 2020) Read: City A.M.More: Express
  • Debunking a Covid-19 ‘miracle cure’ Emeritus Professor David Colquhoun (UCL Biosciences) debunks claims by a group of Bolivian doctors that Chlorine Dioxide can help cure Covid-19, saying “Whatever actions it has at cellular level have nothing to do with whether or not it helps Covid…That needs trials in humans.” (17 September 2020) Read: Business Insider
  • Will there be a spike in Covid-19 deaths? With Covid-19 cases on the rise, Dr Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths (UCL Epidemiology & Health) shares her concerns that “the number of hospitalisations and deaths may be lagging behind [the recent spike in cases] and we just don’t know at the moment.” (17 September 2020) Read: Huffington Post 
  • Workers bring Covid-19 into care homes, not visitors With care homes going into lockdown to protect elderly residents, Dr Aida Suarez-Gonzalez (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) warns that “Covid does not enter care homes through visitors, but workers instead. This is what we’ve learned during the first wave.” (17 September 2020) Read: i News 
  • 'Not enough tests for five months due to winter coughs' With the number of winter colds and flu expected to spike, new research from a team including Dr Rob Aldridge (UCL Institute of Health Informatics) indicates that people with colds who request Covid-19 tests will further lower the limited supply of coronavirus tests for months. (16 September 2020) Read: BBC News 
  • The rise and fall of the immunity passport In a look at the merits of immunity passports during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Michael Veale (UCL Laws) criticises a report from the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, stating it doesn’t consider the full implications of who could use the data, for how long or its purpose. (15 September 2020) Read: New Statesman 
  • Tests run out in England’s top Covid-19 hotspots Professor Christina Pagel (UCL Mathematics) comments on the lack of Covid-19 diagnostic tests in the areas where they are most needed, tweeting, “People with COVID but no test confirmation will not necessarily be isolating and their contacts certainly won't.” (15 September 2020) Read: Yahoo! News 
  • Explaining the rule of six Professor Andrew Hayward (UCL Epidemiology & Health) explains the reasoning behind the new Covid-19 regulations and how “sticking to the rule of six outside of school will reduce opportunities for transmission.” (14 September 2020) Read: Guardian 
  • The end of commuterland? With London’s lure for business entrepreneurs dwindling in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Professor Yolande Barnes (UCL Bartlett Real Estate Institute) comments on the fewer commuters travelling to London for work and how “great cities breathe in and breathe out” populations. (14 September 2020) Read: Economist (£) 
  • England 'on knife-edge' as Covid-19 cases rise With many expressing concern over the increase in Covid-19 cases in the UK, Professor Deenan Pillay (UCL Infection & Immunity) says the latest data shows that out of those people being asked to self-isolate, less than half were properly doing so. (14 September 2020) Read: Guardian 
  • Experts say stop blaming young people for Covid-19 Dr Daisy Fancourt (UCL Epidemiology & Health Care) and Professor Susan Michie (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) say we shouldn’t blame young people for socialising during the pandemic and that doing so “could have [the] opposite effect on compliance.” (14 September 2020) Read: Yahoo! News 
  • The plight of domestic workers in lockdown Professor Virginia Mantouvalou (UCL Laws), explains the legal complications facing unemployed migrant workers in the UK, adding “there is absolutely no guarantee that someone who has been ill-treated and possibly trafficked will manage to be recognised as a victim of trafficking. (8 September 2020) Read: Al Jazeera News 
  • What is the significance of the jump in infection numbers? Dr Jennifer Rohn (UCL Medicine) explains there are unknown variables regarding the new data of Covid-19 cases in the UK, adding “we still don’t know the longer-term effects of mild or asymptomatic infections, let alone the longer-term disabilities of hospitalised survivors.” (8 September 2020) Read: Times (£) 
  • Is Covid-19 a seasonal virus? Professor David Alexander (UCL Institute of Risk & Disaster Reduction) dismisses the seasonality theory of the coronavirus, adding that it is not so much the virus worsens over the winter months, but that immunity generally falls in the population during this time. (7 September 2020) Read: Huffington Post 
  • Europe races to reopen schools amid Covid-19 resurgence In a discussion on schools reopening despite increasing Covid-19 cases, Senior Teaching Fellow Oksana Pyzik (UCL School of Pharmacy) explains how viral transmission rates are higher amongst teachers, and adds we must "think about how we can protect teachers as well as pupils.” (7 September 2020) Read: VOA News 
  • Why isn’t London having a second wave of Covid-19 While other European cities go back into lockdown amid fresh cases of the coronavirus, Professor David Alexander (UCL Institute of Risk & Disaster Reduction) says the lack of a second spike in London is an enigma, “given that London very definitely led during the initial peak.” (7 September 2020) Read: Guardian 
  • Could the MMR vaccine help prevent Covid-19? As the MMR vaccine is trialled to determine its skill at protecting healthcare workers from Covid-19, Professor Laurence Lovat (UCL Surgery & Interventional Science) adds “it may enhance the effectiveness of vaccines currently in development to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection." (7 September 2020) Read: US News & World Report  
  • Leeds faces potential lockdown as new Covid-19 cases emerge In response to new cases of the coronavirus emerging in Leeds, Professor Robert West (UCL Epidemiology & Health) states how England should have followed other countries’ strategies in lowering infection rates and adds “the problem is that this remains a very infectious virus." (4 September 2020) Read: Daily Star
  • Preparing children to return to school in a pandemic Dr Bettina Hohnen and Dr Jane Gilmour (both UCL GOS Institute of Child Health) offers tips and tricks for parents to help their children adjust to returning to schools, including staying calm, sticking to a routine and tailoring advice to children’s communication styles. (1 September 2020) Read: Guardian  
  • Has lockdown stolen our humour? In a look at how one comedian has struggled with keeping a positive outlook during the lockdown, Professor Sophie Scott (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) explains that during times of stress and when we are uncomfortable, finding something laughable is much harder. (1 September 2020) Read: Times (£) 
  • Scientists target coronavirus immunity puzzle With the new UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium (UK-CIC) dedicated to learning how immunity affects a patient’s response to Covid-19, Professor Mala Maini (UCL Infection & Immunity) explains “The immune system is underlying everything that's key to the response to this virus.” (28 August 2020) Read: BBC News 
  • The cases for and against wearing masks in schools Professor Susan Michie (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) and Professor Russell Viner (UCL GOS Institute of Child Health) debate the science supporting and rebutting the UK Government’s decision to require children to wear face masks in communal areas at school from 31 August. (26 August 2020) Read: Guardian  
  • New patient contracts Covid-19 twice As a patient in Hong Kong is found to have had two different strains of Covid-19, Professor Mala Maini (UCL Infection & Immunity) comments that “we can’t assume someone who has had Covid-19 can’t get it again just because they initially became antibody-positive.” (25 August 2020) Read: Yahoo! News 
  • UK's R value may be above 1 for first time on record In a discussion on Covid-19 and the R value, Dr Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths (UCL Epidemiology & Health) explains how when the infection rates decline, the transmission of the virus varies across the population, making the R value a less useful tool for scientists. (24 August 2020) Read: Guardian 
  • Could Covid-19 thrive this winter? As some fear a second wave of Covid-19 this winter, Professor Francois Balloux (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) explains how “In the presence of a large reservoir of susceptible conditions [and people], Sars-CoV-2 can cause epidemics irrespective of climatic conditions.” (19 August 2020) Read: Telegraph (£)
  • Putin’s dangerous vaccine gamble Professor Francois Balloux (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) highlights the political sentiment surrounding the newly developed Russian Covid-19 vaccine, and the ethical issues involved with Russia having bypassed normal safety trials. (12 August 2020) Read: PostMore: UCL News
  • Counting Covid cases not a straightforward task England’s Chief Medical Officer has suggested the nation’s Covid infection rate may increase if society opens as planned, however commenting Professor Christina Pagel (UCL Mathematics) says multiple tests on individuals can affect how many cases are counted. (11 August 2020) Read: Yahoo! News
  • Critical interventions needed against coronavirus Professor Susan Michie (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) and Professor Robert West (UCL Epidemiology & Health) call for a coordinated programme of research to develop social and behavioural interventions to help prevent future viral outbreaks. (10 August 2020) Read: BMJ 
  • Has Covid-19 threatened East London’s popularity? Commenting on London’s trendy east end, as young people desert the area and its night-time economy struggles to return to life following lockdown, Dr Tommaso Gabrieli (The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL) says the situation shouldn’t affect property demand too much. (6 August 2020) Read: FT (£)
  • London in Limbo: can the capital survive the crisis? In an op-ed on London’s economy, economist Gerard Lyons mentions analysis conducted with Visiting Professor Paul Ormerod (UCL Centre for Decision Making Uncertainty) and discusses three solutions that must be in place for London to stay out of lockdown. (6 August 2020) Read: Spectator 
  • Not everyone in coronavirus-hit family prone to disease In a close look at how some people have managed to avoid becoming infected with Covid-19, Professor Karl Friston’s (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) ‘immunological black hole’ theory is referenced, which suggests that half the population is not susceptible to the virus. (4 August 2020) Read: Hindustan Times 
  • Experts share doubts about coronavirus 90-minute tests As two new diagnostic tests are reported to take only 90 minutes to determine if a patient has Covid-19, Professor Deenan Pillay (UCL Infection & Immunity) joins experts in expressing doubts about these tests, as they have not been fully evaluated before purchasing. (3 August 2020) Read: Guardian  
  • COVID-19 vaccine won’t help if people don’t trust it Senior Teaching Fellow Oksana Pyzik (UCL School of Pharmacy) shares concerns at how fast Covid-19 vaccine development is progressing, as “We can’t really afford to cut corners in this process, specifically because there is so much momentum behind an anti-science movement.” (3 August 2020) Read: Japan Times 
  • Will a heatwave kill off or slow down coronavirus? Dr Rob Aldridge (UCL Institute of Health Informatics) discusses the chances of a heat wave slowing transmission of Covid-19 and adds that while there could be lower transmission rates “this may reverse in the winter if there is still a large susceptible population at that point." (31 July 2020) Read: Yahoo! News
  • How to be eco-friendly in a pandemic Professor Mark Miodownik (UCL Mechanical Engineering) discusses the environmental impact of disposable plastic gloves and points out that wearing them in public does not limit the spread of Covid-19. (29 July 2020) Read: Guardian  
  • Absolutely no guarantee antibodies will work Dr Jennifer Rohn (UCL Medicine) speaks with Bloomberg TV about whether antibodies in vaccines will help patients infected with Covid-19, the ‘overreaction’ of people’s bodies to the coronavirus, and the social distancing measure applied by schools to protect students. (29 July 2020) Watch: Bloomberg TV
  • Pandemic drives boom in ‘air button’ technologies As some companies scramble to design contactless technological features for their products, Dr Marianna Obrist (UCL Computer Science) explains how one feature, ‘mid-air haptics’, works by adapting ultrasound speakers to “make them perceivable on the non-hairy part of your skin.” (28 July 2020) Read: FT (£)
  • The rise of anti-mask backlash Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) discusses why a minority of people are resistant to wearing facemasks, and says that wearing masks may make shops and public transport feel less friendly, as we require seeing the entire face to detect emotions. (28 July 2020) Read: Telegraph (£)More: Yahoo! News  
  • Thermal imaging cameras don’t detect fever Thermal imaging cameras are on the rise in hotels, airports and other public spaces however are not yet medically capable of detecting fever and therefore if someone is infectious, says Professor Derek Hill (UCL Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering). (27 July 2020) Read: Times (£)
  • Is the UK government marginalising scientists? Independent SAGE member Professor Susan Michie (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) questions whether replacing SAGE with the Joint Biosecurity Centre to advise the UK Government on Covid-19 is wise as it is separate from the UK public health infrastructure. (24 July 2020) Read: BMJ
  • Analysing coronavirus dreams On the topic of interpreting Covid-19 anxiety, Postgraduate Researcher Jake Roberts (UCL Psychoanalysis Unit) discusses the UCL Lockdown Dreams Project, which has analysed over 700 of people’s dreams during the Covid-19 lockdown. (22 July 2020) Read: i News
  • Facemask use shows social responsibility As Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s efforts to shape health policies during the Covid-19 pandemic come under scrutiny, Professor Sir Michael Marmot (UCL Epidemiology & Health) praises people wearing facemasks in the UK, stating “a strong sense of social responsibility” is at work. (20 July 2020) Read: Guardian
  • Spillover: the origins of Covid-19 In a look at how infectious diseases like Ebola and Covid-19 are thought to have originated in animal hosts, Dr David Redding (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) explains species often share pathogens, and "it is through this process that viruses naturally mutate and evolve." (20 July 2020) Read: Telegraph (£)
  • Discarded rubbish helps Covid spread Pets and wildlife that come in contact with discarded rubbish infected by the coronavirus might contribute to its spread among humans, say Professor Sarah Edwards (UCL Science & Technology Studies) and Professor Joanne Santini (UCL Biosciences). (17 July 2020) Read: i News
  • Sadiq Khan on wearing face masks London Mayor Sadiq Khan speaks about the collaboration between Transport for London (TFL) and UCL to determine how TFL can best protect its public transport staff and passengers during the Covid-19 pandemic. (15 July 2020) Watch: Joe TV
  • Scientists reject PM’s claims over virus transmission In response to the Prime Minister’s claims that no one knew Covid-19 could be transmitted asymptomatically, Professor Deenan Pillay (UCL Infection & Immunity) rejects this, stating “quite early on there was good data that showed asymptomatic transmission was occurring.” (9 July 2020) Read: i News
  • London’s future: the post-lockdown village As businesses start to reopen, Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) adds to a discussion on how this is an opportunity for people to support their local shops. He says: “We are social animals and the high street needs to provide us with community.” (9 July 2020) Read: Evening Standard
  • Concerns over fresh coronavirus wave Dr Jennifer Rohn (UCL Medicine) answers questions about possible US strategies for dealing with Covid-19, and adds to a debate on vaccines, stressing that it may not be effective or a “shot for life”, and how some followers of the anti-vaccine movement may not take one at all. (8 July 2020) Watch: Bloomberg
  • How students will learn post-Covid University teaching after the Covid-19 pandemic should blend online delivery methods with face-to-face group discussions, says Professor Allison Littlejohn (UCL Institute of Education) in a panel discussion on post-pandemic learning. (3 July 2020) Read: Guardian
  • Coronavirus is a multi-system disease Senior Teaching Fellow Oksana Pyzik (UCL School of Pharmacy) answers questions about the long-term health effects of Covid-19 and explains “we do have to learn how to co-exist with the virus until a vaccine is developed”. (3 July 2020) Watch: Bloomberg
  • Covid support kit for rare dementia sufferers An article written by academics from UCL’s Queen Square Institute of Neurology explains how UCL’s Rare Dementia Support Service has launched a Covid-19 emergency kit with increased call support and virtual buddying, following an increase in calls to the service during lockdown. (3 July 2020) Read: BMJ
  • Schools to scrap social distancing in September With schools set to reopen in September without social distancing measures in place, SAGE member and Honorary Lecturer Dr Gavin Morgan (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) suggests the UK Government run an information campaign to earn the trust of parents and teachers. (26 June 2020) Read: Telegraph (£)

  • Why schools should invest in teachers’ wellbeing now PhD student Julia Manning (UCL Computer Science), who researches digital solutions for stress management in the context of secondary schools, describes the risks of the Covid-19 crisis to teachers’ mental health and how school leaders ought to invest in teacher wellbeing. (26 June 2020) Read: TES

  • Is ‘1 metre plus’ enough to stop Covid spread? Commenting on the relaxation of England’s social distancing rules to one metre plus one mitigating measure, Dr Zeshan Qureshi (UCL Institute of Global Health) says the reduction is still a concern as it is most likely to take place in high risk areas, such as pubs and bars. (24 June 2020) Read: ITV News
  • Covid-19 vaccine may not work for at-risk older people In a discussion on whether young people should be vaccinated against Covid-19 to protect their elderly relatives, Professor Arne Akbar (UCL Infection & Immunity) explains how older patients might require a combination of treatments to protect from the virus. (24 June 2020) Read: Guardian
  • Weighing up the benefits and pitfalls of wearing masks Incorrect use, reduced public perception of Covid-19 risk and environmental concerns are drawbacks that could follow the introduction of masks as a public health measure. Dr Olga Perski (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health) explains some possible pitfalls of the rule. (24 June 2020) Read: Metro
  • How far is far enough to prevent the spread of Covid-19? As England prepares to ease social distancing measures aimed at reducing the spread of Covid-19, Associate Professor Lena Ciric (UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering) discusses some of the factors in deciding how far we should be distancing to minimise transmission. (24 June 2020) Read: Mirror
  • Minimising the impact of a coronavirus second wave With infection rates increasing around the world, health providers are looking at ways a second wave of the virus can be avoided. Professor Karl Friston (UCL Wellcome Centre for Neuroimaging) explains that our memory of the first wave should make the second wave less severe. (24 June 2020) Read: Daily Star
  • Room for improvement: first NHS Test and Trace figures released Figures from the NHS’s contact tracing program found that more than 30% of those who tested positive for Covid-19 were not reached. Experts agree the system is not perfect however, Professor Anne Johnson (UCL Infection & Immunity) says the program is still “off to a good start”. (24 June 2020) Read: BMJ
  • Virus 'no respecter of national borders' As Covid-19 cases rise elsewhere in the world, Professor Sarah Hawkes (UCL Institute for Global Health) discusses the pandemic and reminds listeners that “this is a global virus that is no respecter of national borders.” (23 June 2020) Read: BBC News

  • Is a loss of biodiversity responsible for Covid-19? Prince Charles’ view that epidemics may be linked to the “encroachment of man” on habitats “falls under the ‘plausible theory/hypothesis’ range,” rather than being a certainty, says Dr Amitava Banerjee (UCL Health Informatics). (17 June 2020) Read: Express

  • School closures may undo years of social mobility As school closures come under scrutiny, research from UCL and the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) is mentioned as having surveyed over 4000 parents. The survey found that children from affluent households received more attention and supervision than poorer families. (11 June 2020) Read: Mail Online

  • Should I wear a face mask when I exercise? Amidst concerns about professional athletes’ safety when resuming sports, Honorary Lecturer Dr Ben Killingley (UCL Institute of Global Health) explains that there is no reason to recommend wearing face masks for sports which respect social distancing. (10 June 2020) Read: Telegraph (£)

  • Can thermal cameras help spot coronavirus? As the ability of thermal cameras to detect signs of Covid-19 is questioned, Professor Derek Hill (UCL Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering) explains that these devices are less accurate than medical digital thermometers. (9 June 2020) Read: BBC News

  • Coronavirus is changing digital etiquette On the subject of how human behaviour has changed during the pandemic, Professor Anna Cox (UCL Interaction Centre) offers advice on how best to make online meetings and social gatherings run smoothly, and how personal devices can create mental boundaries. (9 June 2020) Read: New York Times (£)

  • Mapping the pandemic - in pictures Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices developed by Professor Rebecca Shipley, Professor Tim Baker (both UCL Mechanical Engineering) and Professor Mervyn Singer (UCL Medicine) working with Mercedes-AMG HPP and UCLH are shown in a feature mapping the Covid-19 pandemic. (8 June 2020) Read: Guardian

  • Covid-19 is not the last pandemic As researchers unveil a new pattern-recognition system to see which wildlife diseases are infectious toward humans, Professor Kate Jones (UCL Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research) says manmade environments can bring humans and animals closer, increasing infection risks. (8 June 2020) Read: BBC News

  • How close are we to defeating Covid-19? Professor Dame Anne Johnson (UCL Infection & Immunity) joins a discussion on Covid-19 efforts and describes how virus testing has improved significantly over the recent months, as mathematical models, virus tests and antibody tests are helping track the spread of cases. (8 June 2020) Read: GuardianYahoo! News

  • Coronavirus is changing digital etiquette On the subject of how human behaviour has changed during the pandemic, Professor Anna Cox (UCL Interaction Centre) offers advice on how best to make online meetings and social gatherings run smoothly, and how personal devices can create mental boundaries. (9 June 2020) Read: New York Times (£)

  • Can thermal cameras help spot coronavirus? As the ability of thermal cameras to detect signs of Covid-19 is questioned, Professor Derek Hill (UCL Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering) explains that these devices are less accurate than medical digital thermometers. (9 June 2020) Read: BBC News

  • Covid-19’s impact on the brain As research published in JAMA suggests that a specific protein in the brain could allow Covid-19 to infect cells in the central nervous system, Dr Michael Zandi (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) queries what the neurological symptoms of the virus could be on the brain. (4 June 2020) Read: Channel 4 News

  • Is now the right time to ease the lockdown? Professor Deenan Pillay (UCL Infection & Immunity) explains the necessity of having a working Test, Track and Trace (TTI) programme in place when a lockdown is lifted, and answers questions about the possibility of a second peak of Covid-19 cases. (2 June 2020) Watch: Channel 4 News

  • Are women the stronger sex? In a discussion on the differences between male and female immune systems, Professor Sarah Hawkes (UCL Institute for Global Health) explains that variations between them are not just biological, and that lifestyle choices are factors as well. (12 May 2020) Read: Mirror

  • Intensive care work is brutal, but you can help Describing his recent experiences caring for patients with Covid-19, Professor Hugh Montgomery (UCL Medicine), highlights the huge strain he and his colleagues are under and calls for more dedicated support and education for intensive care staff. (11 May 2020) Read: Guardian

  • Not all face masks are equal With more people now opting to wear face masks, Professor Mark Miodownik (UCL Mechanical Engineering), explains that reusable face masks are important to cut down on the environmental impact of plastic waste. (11 May 2020) Read: GuardianMore: MSN News

  • We have lost sight of Covid-19’s moderate effects Dr Amitava Banerjee (UCL Institute of Health Informatics) comments on how the media has focussed on the deadly impact of coronavirus, not taking into account the indirect costs such as rising domestic violence rates, mental health problems and the lack of access to healthcare. (7 May 2020) Read: BBC News

  • Why is the UK Coronavirus death toll so high? Professor Ilan Kelman (UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction) says that the UK death and infection rates for Covid-19 aren’t down to one single cause, but that the underfunding of the NHS and the high population density of much of the UK are both contributing factors. (6 May 2020) Read: The National (UAE)
  • Facemasks may not help stem Covid-19 tide Professor Susan Michie (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) and Professor Robert West (UCL Epidemiology & Health) warn that facemasks may not help protect against Covid-19 and that wearing them may lead people to adhere less strictly to social distancing behaviour. (01 May 2020) Read: Yahoo! News
  • Covid-19 not the only potential issue to society While Covid-19 is the priority, we also need to prepare for events such as heatwaves, floods & power cuts, which all occurred last Summer, to ensure our “emergency services are not bogged down" says Dr Gianluca Pescaroli (UCL Institute of Risk & Disaster Reduction). (28 April 2020) Read: Huffington Post