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Coronavirus developments at a glance: 22-28 August

This week’s coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic from Research Professional News

Pressure is mounting on the UK government to update its guidance on face coverings in universities, as institutions take matters into their own hands ahead of the start of the academic year. The University of Essex has said it believes in-person teaching can be safe, after dozens of researchers called for the institution to abandon any plans for face-to-face contact in the new academic year as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

The director of the Francis Crick Institute has warned of “catastrophic consequences” if the UK government fails to support the country’s medical research charities, which are estimating a £300 million shortfall this year as a result of coronavirus.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council has awarded £1m to researchers documenting the experiences of NHS staff during the Covid-19 pandemic. And UK Research and Innovation and the National Institute for Health Research have announced a joint £8.4m investment in three studies investigating major unanswered questions related to coronavirus immunity.

Health experts are calling on the EU to fund the development of a range of treatments for Covid-19, rather than focussing excessively on the development of relatively well-funded vaccines.

Agreements to secure doses of Covid-19 vaccines for the EU will protect the manufacturers from some potential legal claims and damage payments they could face if the vaccines cause harms—potentially as a result of the speed with which they are being developed—the European Commission has said.

The European Covid-19 Data Platform—a website launched by the European Bioinformatics Institute, European Commission and other partners—is playing an important part in the research response to the pandemic, those behind it have said. The European Commission has registered a European Citizens’ Initiative petition calling for the pooling of Covid-19-related intellectual property developed with the support of EU funds.

In university news, hundreds of researchers, students and alumni of the Central European University are asking the institution to provide financial assistance to its doctoral students. And a slight increase in coronavirus infections has caused disruption for Norwegian universities, who had expected to return to on-campus teaching in autumn.

South African universities will be expected to begin the 2021 academic year between 15 March and 15 April, but many will struggle to make that deadline. Meanwhile, female scientists are suffering from the African response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and worse may still be ahead.

Africa is coping with Covid-19 despite predictions that the continent would be overwhelmed, a panel discussion has heard. And South Africa’s embattled science system may be able to look forward to a silver lining in the economic recovery plan being put together for the country.

The revival of Australia’s AUS $19.5 billion international student industry may hang on a trial due to commence in South Australia next month.