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University of York takes the lead on coronavirus social research

New projects have been announced tackling the impact of coronavirus on low-income families and the public perception of the restrictions.

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The University of York has been at the forefront of several important research projects concerning COVID-19. Notably, at the end of April, the University announced two new research projects focusing on the social implications of the virus.

The research projects are two of only seven in the UK that have been given funding from the Nuffield Foundation, which aims to fund research in justice, education and welfare.

The Department of Social Policy and Social work is heading research on the impact of COVID-19 on low-income families, and investigating how the social security system is dealing with these new pressures. It aims to influence the evolving policy response and ensure that the experiences of those suffering in the immediate aftershocks are not overlooked.

At the same time, it was announced that the School of Law would be undergoing research on the growth of governmental powers, and public perceptions of the recent restrictions. The team aims to find out how government responses to public health emergencies relate to the population’s attitudes towards the legal system.

These new projects come as several other coronavirus related studies are already being published in York. Two lecturers in the Department of Education have undergone research into how the virus is affecting the mental health of SEND pupils, by collecting data from families since lockdown began. They found that many have been struggling due to the abrupt interruption of routines and social networks. Heightened by fears due to underlying health conditions, some of these children might have, the researchers have seen there is a disproportionate negative impact on their mental health.

Academics from the Department of Health Sciences have also collaborated with the NHS and Oxford Brookes University to develop a chair-based exercise programme, to help people working from home or those recovering from the virus. This is delivered in the form of online videos, and aim to improve the general health of the public, reducing the burden on the NHS.

Not only is the social impact of the virus being taken into account, but the University has also been undertaking some important scientific research that could help in fighting the disease itself. A team from the York Structural Biology Laboratory has produced a protein which stores and protects part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. This discovery could lead to antiviral therapies being developed, and allow for a better understanding of the protein - which can aid drug development, and therefore assist in the fight against the virus.

Finally, global research is showing that there has been a steady decline in CO2 emissions as a result of COVID-19, which has brought with it a reduced use of transport and other polluting services. York, as shown through more York research, is no exception to this global trend. A study completed by Dr David Carslaw (Department of Chemistry) has seen that there has been a 30 per cent improvement in air quality across the city of York since the coronavirus lockdown, compared to “business as usual” levels. Dr Carslaw said this data will become more robust as more data comes available, but there is already a clear and dramatic increase in air quality across York.

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