COVID-19 Vaccines: July update on research

There are almost 150 coronavirus vaccine candidates under development. Only 19 of these are now being tested in humans. Many types of vaccines are rapidly progressing through clinical trials. Only two vaccine candidates have announced large scale Phase 3 trials, involving several thousands of people. Only one candidate has been approved for restricted human use. Measuring a reduction in COVID-19 levels is an obstacle for Phase 3 clinical trials, as they require a high infection rate among the te…

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COVID-19 therapies

This article was updated on 1 May and again on 6 July. Since its original publication on 17 April, the number of COVID-19 clinical trials has increased from 524 to 2,378. There is no cure for COVID-19. Researchers are testing existing drugs to see if they act against SARS-CoV-2 or alleviate the symptoms of the disease. New drugs are also in development, but this is at a very early stage. Results from trials on existing drugs have already been reported with some positive findings. Dexamethasone i…

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COVID-19: July update on face masks and face coverings for the general public

There is some weak evidence that face masks and coverings can reduce transmission of the virus in some specific circumstances, particularly poorly ventilated and crowded indoor spaces. Policy on using face coverings differs across the UK. They are recommended across the UK in circumstances where social distancing is difficult. In Scotland they must be used on public transport and from 10 July they will be mandatory in shops. In England they are mandatory on public transport and in NHS hospitals…

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Contact tracing apps for COVID-19

Contact tracing apps could be used to control the COVID-19 outbreak. Most of them work by automatically registering another smartphone when it is too close for an extended period of time. Then if a user tests positive for Coronavirus in the future, the contact tracing app notifies these contacts. Some countries like Singapore and Australia have already adopted or rolled out their own contact tracing apps. Concerns have been raised about misuse of personal data.
Initial data suggests there has b…

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COVID-19 and social distancing: the 2 metre advice

An infected person produces respiratory droplets when talking, coughing and sneezing. These are responsible for the transmission of virus between people. Droplets can travel up to 2m, with finer aerosols containing smaller viral particles travelling even further. Numerous complex and interacting factors influence how they move and settle onto surfaces, and how infectious they are. The further away a person is, the fewer droplets they will be exposed to and so their risk of being infected with th…

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Remote sensing and machine learning

There is increasing interest in using machine learning to automatically analyse remote sensing data and increase our understanding of complex environmental systems. While there are benefits from this approach, there are also some barriers to its use. This POSTnote examines the value of these approaches, and the technical and ethical challenges for wider implementation. …

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Managing land uses for environmental benefits

Understanding the combined impacts of land use on environmental benefits could better inform decision-making and land management frameworks. This POSTnote summarises the challenges of managing landscapes on a large scale to deliver multiple environmental benefits, the evidence needed, and the policy approaches that could be used to achieve this.…

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Antibody tests for COVID-19

There is insufficient scientific evidence to know whether the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies confers protection from subsequent infections, and if so at what level. Antibodies are only one part of the immune response to infection. Tests that detect SARS-CoV-2 antibodies are available. They can determine whether someone has had COVID-19. Tests can reveal those who are unaware that they had COVID-19 because they had mild or no symptoms. Test samples must be analysed in a laboratory – no home…

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Immunity to COVID-19

Scientific understanding of the immune response to COVID-19 is incomplete but numerous research studies are underway. There is little evidence to suggest that exposure to other coronaviruses can confer protection against SARS-CoV-2. There is very good evidence that it takes at least 14 days to develop an antibody response to SARS-CoV-2. A significant proportion of people exposed to SARS-CoV-2 make very little or no detectable antibodies at all. There is insufficient scientific evidence to know w…

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A resilient UK food system

The food system underpins many aspects of our society. It feeds us and shapes the economic, social and natural environments that we live in. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of resilience in the food system. This POSTnote defines resilience and why it is needed, describes what a more resilient UK food system would look like and explores possible ways of achieving this.…

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Key EU space programmes

The EU operates space programmes which provide services such as navigation and weather forecasting to European citizens. These programmes include Galileo, the EU's global navigation satellite system (which is similar to GPS), Copernicus, the EU's Earth observation programme, and the EU space surveillance and tracking (EUSST) programme which aims to protect satellites from space debris. The UK has made significant contributions to the development and delivery of these programmes in recent decades…

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Marine renewables

Marine renewables are technologies that generate electricity from tide and wave motion. They produce electricity without greenhouse gases, and could provide economic benefits for the UK. However, the technologies have been slow to develop, despite previous projections of growth. This POSTnote examines the causes of this delay and how the sector might develop.…

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COVID-19 in children

There is very good evidence that children who have COVID-19 are much less likely to develop severe symptoms and much less likely to die from the disease than people in older age groups. There is good evidence that children under 13 years old are less susceptible to developing clinical disease (this means having recognisable signs and symptoms) than adults. It is not yet clear whether this is also the case for older children. There is some research indicating that children aged 13 years and under…

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Food fraud

Evidence suggests that food fraud continues to be an issue in the global food supply chain. This POSTnote provides an overview of food fraud, including its drivers and impacts. It discusses methods for food authenticity testing, broader strategies to prevent food fraud and impacts of EU exit. …

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