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22nd December 2022

Four COVID-19 research studies helping to improve lives in Wales

The Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre has funded four vital COVID-19 research studies which aim to improve pandemic management and support Wales’ transition out of the pandemic.

Since March 2021, the Centre has been reviewing research evidence to make sure Welsh Government, the NHS and social care has access to the most up-to-date and relevant information to decide the best ways to provide services in health and social care.

Although this has provided answers to many questions, it has also highlighted key evidence gaps which could benefit from further investigation. To help tackle this the Centre has funded the following four research projects:

PVCOVID – Public Reviews During the Coronavirus Pandemic

This project examines the changes in people’s COVID-19 health behaviours over time. This includes testing, self-isolation, facemask wearing and mixing socially. It also looks at how the public view symptoms like colds, sore throats, and fever, which might be related to COVID-19, and what they do in response to the symptoms.

With the aim of exploring whether and how people in certain population groups may experience the transition out of the pandemic differently, this research has a particular focus on those in Black and Asian Minority Ethnic communities, those in the most deprived communities, and those who are elderly or clinically vulnerable.

This continues the PVCOVID project which has been conducting focus groups and surveys since March 2020.

Principal Investigators: Dr Kim Dienes and Dr Simon Williams

Host organisation: Swansea University

Start date: June 2022

End date: March 2023

Funding amount: £54,125

CARI-Cymru – COVID-19 and common respiratory tract infection-related health behaviours: Development of community-based approaches to reducing the burden of respiratory tract infection in Wales

This study follows on from PVCOVID and aims to understand how people engage with behaviour which can prevent the spread of infection during the winter flu season.

The project compares how the public acts when they are infected and symptomatic with when they are infected and have no symptoms. It then uses this knowledge to develop community-based strategies to reduce the impact of respiratory tract infections for the people of Wales.

Principal Investigators: Dr Kim Dienes and Dr Simon Williams

Host organisation: Swansea University

Start date: September 2022

End date: March 2023

Funding amount: £78,986

BBB-COV – Brain and Brainstem Basis of Long COVID

COVID-19 can affect the brain and nerves, particularly those that regulate the heart and breathing. The brainstem is a key area which influences mood and thinking – damage to this area could explain the diverse range of symptoms seen in long COVID and may contribute to the feeling of breathlessness many with long COVID experience.

Unfortunately, the brainstem is not well seen or characterised by scans typically used in hospitals such as CT or standard MRI scans. This study looks to use a more powerful, specialised MRI scan to examine this area in more detail.

Researchers hope this helps to identify areas of the brain contributing to symptoms in long COVID. This study may also provide information to guide the diagnosis and development of treatments to reduce some of the symptoms for people with long COVID.

Principal Investigator: Dr Helen E Davies

Host Organisations: Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Cardiff University

Start date: February 2022

End date: August 2022

Funding amount: £21,047

The experiences of learners and their families from homes where Welsh is not spoken during the COVID-19 pandemic 

This project explores the experiences of learners from homes where Welsh is not spoken who have received primary education through the medium of Welsh and are continuing their secondary education through the medium of Welsh, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project will look at young people who are either in a Welsh-medium secondary school or following Welsh-medium provision in a bilingual school, exploring the experiences of them and their families.

Principal Investigator: Sian Lloyd (Aberystwyth) and Enlli Thomas (Bangor)

Host organisation: Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities

Start date: October 2022

End date: March 2023

Funding amount: £65,891.50

Keep up to date with the latest information from the Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre and other research projects across Wales by signing up to the Health and Care Research Wales bulletin.