COVID-19 infections, the biggest challenge for neurologists and neuroscientists in the most severely affected countries is likely to be the protracted transition to a new normal. While the neurological impact of COVID-19 is now well recognized, especially among healthcare workers and vulnerable groups [1,2] the challenges of restarting clinical and laboratory research, and allowing clinical study coordinators and laboratory staff back on-site are enormous and deserve greater attention (Table 1).
The first practical consideration is the need to maintain social distancing between staff members to deter and curb the spread of COVID- 19. Most institutions will have to operate with reduced staff numbers who will function under staggered work schedules. As the roadmap to ease restrictive measures may also vary between different institutions and between collaborating countries involved in any given project, the slow and stepwise nature of return to normalcy will inevitably impede the work of the scientific community as a whole.
The opening of non-COVID-19 related clinical trials brings forth its own challenges. In many countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, USA, China, and Singapore, non-COVID-19 trials were suspended during the acute phase of COVID-19 lockdown and are being re-started in various nation-specific “recovery” programmes. However, staff capacity remains an issue specifically where investigators have been deployed to COVID-19 studies while older and more vulnerable researchers are assigned to non-clinical support facilities. Delays in starting new trials therefore is inevitable given that such trials will be only prioritized after the large number of “suspended” studies are reopened with newly implemented safety protocols.
- Biomedical Research