*this article was first published by Science.lu on 30 March 2020, near the start of the COVID-19 crisis repsonse

A special task force provided equipment and specialists, supporting hospital staff, and conducting scientific studies on the coronavirus in Luxembourg.

In view of the Covid-19 crisis, Research Luxembourg – a joint initiative of the main actors of Luxembourg’s public research sector - mobilized its know-how, staff, and equipment.

A task force was set up in order to provide the health care system with the full expertise of Luxembourg’s public research sector (LIH, LISER, LIST, LNS, University of Luxembourg, FNR, under the coordination of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research).

Offering coordinated support and making use of know-how

The missions of this task force were:

- Supporting the health care sector and the government in a coordinated way through the national research community in order to contain the current Covid-19 pandemic;

- Helping with the identification and centralisation of a multitude of primary activities while making use of cross-sectoral know-how in the fields of molecular biology, epidemiology, clinical studies, and basic research;

- Acting as a point of contact between the national research community, the health care sector, and public authorities.

New scientific studies on Covid-19

Among others, there were three main areas which were covered by the task force:

- A prevalence study in order to find out how far the virus has spread, and how many infected people are asymptomatic;

- A study in which researchers attempt to identify risk factors which negatively influence the course of the disease

- Simulation studies dealing with course, impact, and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic which are specifically aimed at short- and medium-term projections. They also try to determine transitional points at which confinement measures could possibly be relaxed or lifted.

Concrete measures have already been taken

Concrete measures have already been set in place due to the processes undertaken up to that stage, research institutes, for instance, offered equipment and skilled personnel to aid and speed up teamwork and information flow.

Vastly important to the timeline, was the mobilisation of future doctors, who were completing the “formation spécifique en médecine générale” (training in general medical practice).

Many of those 'future GPs' have volunteered to join the nursing staff of the four national hospital facilities.

The government – with the support of the University of Luxembourg and the doctors enlisted in the above-mentioned training – continually adjusted and updated the legal framework in order to make this initiative possible.

Measures were also taken to enable the employment of volunteers where the situation has required an influx of personnel. Nursing staff who were usually supporting research studies as well as medical students were also educated further in order to support hospital staff.

Governments and research funders worldwide have ensured that almost all scientific data and publications on Covid-19 are freely available in digital (machine readable) format.

This data is a very valuable source, which is now available for text and data mining via artificial intelligence - a field in which Luxembourg has a great expertise and has invested in fully.

Additional funds are being provided by the National Research Fund (FNR) in order to accelerate efforts and support cooperation between researchers.

Author: Research Luxembourg (Contact: didier.goossens@fnr.lu)

Editor: Michèle Weber (FNR)