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Virus Watch to keep an eye on COVID-19 spread

Virus Watch to keep an eye on COVID-19 spread

A new study supported by CRN North Thames will investigate the extent of the spread of coronavirus within communities and how social distancing affects the risk of infection.

Virus Watch, which will be led by experts at University College London and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is funded jointly by NIHR and UK Research and Innovation as part of a £24.6 million rapid research response.

Professor Andrew Hayward will lead the study to recruit 25,000 individuals and collect data from April 2020 to March 2021.

Professor Hayward said: "So far most of our information about COVID-19 is from people who are ill enough to need to go to hospital. This means we have a very incomplete understanding of the infection and how we can fight it.

“We will find out how common COVID-19 is over time, what is the full range of symptoms, how easily it spreads within the household, how the virus affects different age groups, those with chronic illness, different ethnic groups and different occupations. We will also investigate how people's movements and use of public spaces during periods of lockdown and when the lockdown is eased affect the risk of infection.

“We will find out how many people have developed antibodies and how effectively these antibodies help to protect against future infection. All of this information will help the governments and public health agencies around the world decide on the best ways to minimise the harms of COVID-19.”

The Virus Watch research team will be releasing data throughout the study period.

Professor David Wheeler, co-Clinical Director of CRN North Thames, which will be lead network for the study, said: “NIHR is at the forefront of coronavirus research and this study is proof positive of that.

“This study will help us put in place some of the missing pieces in the coronavirus jigsaw. We are proud to be the lead network supporting this study.”