How the University of Sheffield is helping in fight against coronavirus

As the number of coronavirus cases in South Yorkshire continues to grow, the University of Sheffield has shared how it is helping to lead the fight against the pandemic.

Tuesday, 24th March 2020, 5:00 pm

Professor Koen Lamberts, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, moved to reassure the university’s students and staff, as well as its suppliers and partners, about the “rapid changes” implemented to minimise the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

In a letter to people across South Yorkshire, he explained the reasoning behind the actions taken by the University of Sheffield and the ways in which it will be working to support communities in the region as it responds to the pandemic.

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Koen Lamberts, vice chancellor of Sheffield University. Picture Scott Merrylees

Actions already taken by the university include opening the Arts Tower car park to support NHS workers at nearby hospitals free of charge.

Prof Lamberts said: “For the UK, the last 10 days have been transformational and I think we can safely say that very few of us fully anticipated the range of impacts that this virus would be able to cause.

“As we all try to stay safe and minimise the effect on our own lives, our loved ones, our work and our communities, I wanted to write to everyone in South Yorkshire - our partners, alumni and friends - to let you know what the University of Sheffield is doing to support the response to Covid-19.

“I started working and living in Sheffield around 15 months ago. Like so many before me, I have found this region to be remarkably friendly, supportive, creative and resilient.

A public service advert on how to wash your hands during the Coronavirus outbreak on Fargate in Sheffield City Centre as the UK enters the first phase of lockdown

“The South Yorkshire spirit is undeniable and it is instrumental in driving forward the University of Sheffield. But the coming months will be challenging for everyone, and I want you to know that the University of Sheffield is here to do all we can to support our region’s people, businesses and economy.

“In the short time since Covid-19 began to spread, I have been overwhelmed by the way so many in South Yorkshire have stepped forward to help, including many of our own students and academics.”

The University of Sheffield changed its term dates – with students finishing the first half of their spring semester on Friday, March 20 – and closed most of its buildings to support home-working and allow lecturers to teach online.

In the last two weeks, scientists from the Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease have also worked with the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals’ Virology team to learn more about the virus.

The University of Sheffield has offered its Arts Tower car park for NHS workers

Prof Lamberts added: “Led by our Dr Thushan de Silva, this type of evidence helps the global science community to understand how this virus is spreading and changing, and it is this type of information that will eventually help to develop a vaccine.

“Dr de Silva’s team has now been asked to be part of a national consortium to sequence as many UK genomes as possible. Other scientists in our Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health and beyond are also diverting their skills, laboratories and equipment to help with clinical testing.

“A few days ago Professor Daniel Lambert from our School of Dentistry asked his academic colleagues in Sheffield for support with NHS testing - he has told us that he has seen extraordinary response to this request from both of Sheffield’s universities.

“Supporting our Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and our NHS is at the forefront of our response to COVID-19.

“We know how pressed our regional workforce could become and so we have followed guidance from the Medical Schools Council to change our final assessment process and allow our final-year medical students to graduate, and begin practising, earlier than usual.”

Elsewhere, medical students in earlier cohorts have been volunteering their services to help doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers with everything from childcare to prescription collections.

Prof Lamberts continued: “As part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) has been involved in discussions about how the UK can quickly manufacture ventilators and other vital medical equipment.

“All of these efforts are matched by countless other examples of selfless acts across South Yorkshire - students leafleting their neighbours offering support, communities sharing online activities and our public services coming together to do all they can to keep our region as safe as possible.

“I also want to thank all of Sheffield’s communities for the kindness that you continue to show our students and staff who choose to make Sheffield their home. Many of our students are from different countries and some have been unable to return to their families who are thousands of miles away.

“Sheffield’s hospitality means everything to these students in these most testing of times.

“We can’t say what South Yorkshire will look like in four, six or 12 months from now. But I intend to do my best to support our Mayor and regional leaders to help us all recover. The University of Sheffield’s founding statement explains how we were built to be ‘for the people’. And in the words of our region’s great local newspapers: we are there with you.”

If you have suggestions around how the University can further support the response to Covid-19 email: [email protected]