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Coronavirus developments at a glance—19 March

Today: Covid-19 devastates UK university pensions, advisers scramble into action and travel bans are extended

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See all coronavirus updates from Research Professional News in one place—funding, policy, opinion, and more.

Please note: Research Professional News is working towards making all our coronavirus coverage free. At present some of these stories are only accessible to subscribers, but please check back in the coming days for free versions. 


The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has tested positive for Covid-19, he has announced, amid media reports and much speculation that the UK will seek an extension to its transition out of the bloc because of the disruption caused by the pandemic. And the pandemic shows the need for rapid, reactive EU research funds, MEPs from the centre-left Socialists and Democrats political group have said

In Germany, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the country’s largest public research funder, has launched special measures to help scientists during the coronavirus pandemic, including simplified budget extensions.


In the UK, the Covid-19 outbreak is shutting down schools, but universities are still being largely left to their own devices, to the annoyance of some. It also looks increasingly likely that the huge Research Excellence Framework assessment of university research that was scheduled for 2021 will have to be delayed. At the moment, submissions to the REF must be made by 27 November but a growing number of experts are warning that the deadline could be difficult to meet.

The two men at the heart of giving scientific and medical advice to the government have said ongoing work by researchers will be key to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, as they welcomed intense scrutiny of their policy work from colleagues.

Meanwhile, the Russell Group of research-intensive universities has urged the UK’s largest public funder of research to create an emergency fund during the coronavirus pandemic. And some of the UK’s top learned societies have partially suspended activities as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but insist their funding programmes will continue as normal.

Our HE service reports that academics are urging the Home Office to relax visa rules that restrict the amount of time students can spend outside the UK each year because of the travel restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.


Research laboratories in the United States are shutting down all but essential work and limiting access by researchers as attempts continue to limit unnecessary personal interactions because of the Covid-19 pandemic.


South Africa’s government is working out how to deal with thousands of students abroad in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, and the country has committed R4 million (US$240,000) for domestic research projects to curb the spread of SARS-Cov-2.


Over 120 million students in higher education across the world are unable to attend classes due to the coronavirus, according to the latest data from Unesco, the UN agency for education. To respond to the unprecedented halt to global education, Unesco has launched a ‘Global COVID-19 Education Coalition’ to help deliver remote learning workarounds for courses, with technology partners including Microsoft.


Contrasting Covid-19 with SARS shows how far we’ve come, say Bobby Thompson and Chris Winchester