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Coronavirus developments at a glance—23 March

A pan-European trial launches, universities struggle with virus impacts, and New Zealand locks down

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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. 

Researchers in eight European countries have launched a randomised clinical trial to test treatments for the Covid-19 respiratory disease. The pandemic has now infected more than 300,000 people globally and killed more than 12,000 in about four months.

But universities have asked for more clarity on Covid-19 measures, saying a case-by-case approach to Erasmus is ‘too time demanding’. And Covid-19 has forced the researcher association EuroScience to postpone its biennial Open Forum, billed as “the largest interdisciplinary forum on science and innovation in Europe”.

In Ireland, a number of the country’s principal funding bodies have issued a joint statement to reassure researchers that deadlines and budgets will be more flexible in order to help science continue during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the UK the largest funder of health research in the UK has paused research at NHS and social care sites to enable more focus on the coronavirus, a move that has been welcomed by a group representing major medical research charities. This comes as universities and research funders are scrambling to put contingency plans in place as the UK grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

Also in the UK, a nationwide consortium of clinicians and scientists is embarking on a £20 million genome-sequencing quest to map how Covid-19 spreads.

Our HE team reports that universities have been told to pressure firms in charge of private halls of residence to make sure no student is left without a place to stay during the coronavirus epidemic.

Australia and New Zealand
In New Zealand, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced Level 4 lockdown restrictions for the country, including the closure of libraries, museums and schools for at least four weeks to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

In Australia, Victoria’s premier has ignored a directive from prime minister Scott Morrison on Covid-19 restrictions by pushing ahead with school closures across the state. The move puts the state at odds with Morrison, who has repeatedly told the media that schools and universities will remain open. And the National Tertiary Education Union has said the federal government has failed to recognise the need for a rescue package to address the “severe economic effects” of the Covid-19 crisis on Australia’s universities.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has called for better international coordination “to remove regulatory hurdles for vaccines and treatments” during the Covid-19 pandemic.