Five things we’re doing to help prevent the spread of Covid-19

Our ground breaking research has never been so critical during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Amongst other things, we’re helping to detect the virus, support people suffering from the effects of lockdown and understand how we could be better prepared if there was another pandemic. Here are five things our researchers have done to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

1) Dogs join fight against Covid-19

We’ve been working with the charity Medical Detection Dogs and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) to see if specially-trained dogs could detect Covid.

Previous research by Medical Detection Dogs has shown that our four legged friends can sniff out the scent of malaria, so now they are being trained to detect the virus by smelling face masks, socks and t-shirts that volunteers have worn for 12 hours.

If the trial is successful, the specially-trained dogs could be stationed in public places, such as airports in the UK, to help rapidly screen people travelling from abroad, with the potential of screening of up to 250 people per hour.

2) Working in partnership

Partnerships are important because they help us make a difference through our research expertise.

One of our longest partnerships is with global technology company IBM, spanning seven years. During the pandemic IBM’s support has been vital to researchers in our Mathematical Sciences and Sociology departments, whose research has helped regional health services respond to Covid-19.

The research involved sharing a data report with local NHS and councils to help regional health services respond to Covid-19.

IBM created a dashboard for the data and hosted it on their cloud storage system, which enabled the data to be accessed and shared safely and securely to support the planning of health and social care services. Local resilience forums also accessed the data for planning and responding to major incidents.

3) Grief during Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought massive changes to how we say goodbye to our loved ones, so researchers from our Centre for Death and Life Studies put together an online hub of resources to help bereaved people and those working in funeral or memorial professions.

The hub provides links to advice on grief and bereavement and online memorial services, Covid-19 Government statistics, and essays and media interviews on the effects of the pandemic on grief and funeral rituals.

People can also take part in a worldwide research project to help understand how the virus has changed the way people have paid their last respects, and how the people in the UK will engage with more shared, large-scale, forms of remembering and remembrance beyond the pandemic.

4) Rationing in future pandemics

A pioneering research forecast model by our Business School found that rationing could be an effective measure for governments to introduce during ongoing and future pandemics.

Using existing data and forecasting models, our researchers were able to predict the growth of Covid-19 cases and the disruptions any increases would cause across supply chains in the USA, India, UK, Germany, and Singapore.

Their findings confirmed an excess demand for groceries and electronics during pandemics, and showed that the earlier a lockdown is imposed, the higher the excess demand will be.

For example, when cases of the virus grew and lockdown was imposed back in March, consumer behaviour changed with panic buying and overstocking in households which put a huge strain on supply chains.

The forecast model recommends that governments would need to secure higher volumes of key products before the lockdown and, when this is not possible, seriously consider more radical interventions such as rationing.

5) Responding to the domestic abuse crisis

Our sociology researchers are working with the University of London to track the impact of Covid-19 on domestic abuse.

The number of domestic abuse victims contacting support organisations in England doubled within the first three weeks of lockdown, but police forces believe a large number of victims were not reporting their abuse due to lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures.

As part of the study, researchers are analysing changes in the nature and extent of domestic abuse reported to the police and police interventions, and interviewed police officers to understand their response to domestic abuse incidents.

The study is the largest and most rigorous analysis of police case file data conducted anywhere in the world to date and directly addresses current knowledge gaps in how lockdown and social distancing measures impact domestic abuse

The findings have the potential to help the UK Government weigh up the benefits of lockdown restrictions versus their impact on vulnerable people and provides robust evidence for domestic abuse strategies in the event of another pandemic or similar event.