University College Cork has been awarded significant funding to research the impact Covid-19 public health measures have had on the people of Ireland, and to also study the genetic makeup of the viruses circulating across the country.
The projects are two of 26 proposals awarded as part of a €5m Rapid Response Research, Development and Innovation programme established by the Health Research Board (HRB), Irish Research Council (IRC), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.
The Programme was introduced to fund research that will provide evidence for the national and global efforts to deal with the virus outbreak.
Professor Ivan Perry of UCC’s School of Public Health will lead a study estimating the burden of symptomatic disease in the community, and the impact of public health measures on physical, mental and social wellbeing.
News of the award comes just days before the announcement of the next phase of measures to battle the spread of Covid-19 on May 5.
The Government has implemented unprecedented public health measures to contain the virus and mitigate its impact.
However, there is now a critical need for evidence on the impact and sustainability of these measures to inform the national and global response to the pandemic in the weeks and months ahead.
Prof Perry’s research will survey thousands of members of the public on their experiences of the pandemic.
These findings, along with other data, will be used to create a mathematical model that will inform decisions on the best levels and duration of physical-distancing measures, balancing a range of factors including capacity of the health service, the effects on well-being, and economic disruption.
The work will be carried out in collaboration with Ipsos, a global market research firm and in collaboration with the National Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
Speaking about the project, Prof Perry said:
"We hope that this project will give us a better understanding of both the underlying trends in the burden of symptomatic and asymptomatic Covid-19 infection in the community and the impact of physical distancing and related public health measures on our physical, mental, psychological and social wellbeing."
Professor Anita Maguire, Vice President for Research & Innovation, University College Cork welcomed the awarding of €199,945 for the project.
"I am delighted to see the excellent and innovative research focused on Covid-19 led by Ivan Perry supported under this award, building on his groundbreaking research in public health over many years,” she said.
Meanwhile, a project led by Prof Paul Cotter of Teagasc and UCC’s and Teagasc’s APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre has also been awarded funding to determine the genetic makeup of the viruses circulating in Ireland, so as to support efforts to respond to clusters of infections as they arise, and minimise the spread of the virus.
The €378,716 award will fund a National Coronavirus Sequencing Consortium that will read and analyse the genetic makeup of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in patient samples in Ireland.
The data about the genetic sequences of the viruses will be freely available, allowing epidemiologists to monitor trends in Ireland and internationally, and to watch for changes in the virus that could have an impact the development and delivery of treatments and vaccines.
"The Irish Coronavirus Sequencing Consortium has been made possible due to the remarkable enthusiasm and commitment from very many clinicians and researchers across the country. By continuing to work together, we can provide key insights into viral spread and how it is evolving over time. I’d like to in particular thank my colleague, Dr Fiona Crispie, for her key role in establishing this Consortium," Prof Cotter said.