Greater investment is needed to help countries with the weakest health systems prepare for COVID-19

We’ve awarded £12 million, in partnership with the UK Department for International Development, to speed up global COVID-19 research and development and help low- and middle-income countries prepare for the pandemic. But more investment is needed. 

Five parishoners in Malawi wash their hands as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19

Credit: Amos Gumulira / AFP / Getty Images

Parishoners in Malawi wash their hands as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 has now reached every corner of the world. As the pandemic continues to spread, countries with weaker health systems, limited resources and vulnerable populations will need additional support from the international community.

If we fail to invest in epidemic preparedness in these countries, the pandemic will have huge social and economic consequences

Every nation must be ready to respond, which is why we’ve awarded £12 million to support research and development where it's urgently needed.

What we’re funding 

Great work is happening through initiatives like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, to develop new vaccines, and the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, to speed up access to treatments. But urgent gaps remain in the coordination and prioritisation of global research and development efforts.

We’re funding projects that will explore how the virus is spreading and how it affects different populations. The more knowledge we can gain in this area, the more of the jigsaw we can piece together to develop interventions. For example, researchers:

  • in Kenya, Uganda and The Gambia will be modeling prevalence, how the virus changes, and the impact of intervention strategies
  • in South Africa will be investigating how the virus affects people with HIV
  • in Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand will be one of the first teams to look at how the virus affects people of all ages, including young children
  • in Malawi will provide greater testing capability and make sure that hospital healthcare systems are robust 
  • in the UK, Kenya and Hong Kong will be looking at the immune response to different coronaviruses – including those which cause common colds – to better understand disease.

Alongside research, there must be adequate systems and assurances in place for in-country responses to work. We’re funding training for healthcare workers in Africa to ensure they are fully prepared and have the right expertise. 

Putting research into practice

We’ve chosen to support research teams working closely with their local governments and other regional organisations, such as the Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa, so that findings can be quickly put into practice. Importantly, findings will be open access so that the wider research community and health leaders everywhere can benefit from this work.

Research will change the course of this pandemic and help save lives, but there needs to be coordination across nations. We’re providing £2 million to the Africa CDC to allow greater collaboration and communication across all 55 African ministries of health.

Despite all this fantastic work, $8 billion is still needed to develop the new diagnostics, vaccines and treatments the world needs.

More information