Scientists working on a ground-breaking Covid-19 medical study have issued an urgent call to people in Lancashire who caught the virus to donate blood at a special ‘pop up’ centre.
To encourage more people to join the study, a temporary centre at the Legacy Preston International Hotel on Marsh Lane will open its doors to volunteers on Friday.
If participants don’t wish to travel, they also have the option of booking a home visit with a nurse.
The unique GenOMICC Covid-19 study analyses the genes of people who have had the virus to discover why some experienced no symptoms while others became extremely ill.
The study is already contributing to the fight against Covid, with preliminary results helping identify possible new treatments.
However, for the study to continue to make progress, the scientists urgently need to recruit 2,500 more people from all backgrounds.
Along with seeking help from members of Preston’s Asian and Black communities, they’re also keen for more men to volunteer – a goal that has won the support from a leading race equality campaign group.
Development Officer at CORE (Coalition of Race Equality Organisations), Karun Maudgil, said: "As CORE, we represent a coalition of 27 ethnic minority-led organisations across the UK.
“We welcome the pop-up donation centres, in that they will provide greater clarity as to why members of the ethnic minority communities we represent, who were disproportionately impacted in terms of Covid-19 infection, hospitalisation and death rates, experienced varying degrees of symptoms - ranging from asymptomatic to fatal.”
The genetic research project has been enthusiastically embraced in areas of Scotland and Wales, and Bradford and Slough in England, when similar pop-up centres were opened – and with life in Preston beginning to return to a sense of normality, organisers are hoping for a similar response.
Principal investigator Alexandra Williams from the Royal Preston Hospital said: “This study has one key objective – to help us understand why Covid has impacted different groups in different ways.
“Sadly, a disproportionate number of people who ended up in hospital have Asian and Black heritage – that’s why we need people from these communities to join the study as soon as possible to help us discover new ways of beating the virus."
The study's chief investigator, Dr Kenneth Baillie, said they are appealing for more volunteers from all walks of life and in particular for people from ethnic communities to come forward and register.
He said: “We need to find people who tested positive for Covid but experienced either mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment.
"To maximise the study’s potential, it’s important that these volunteers are similar in age, gender and ethnicity of those people who were severely affected and hospitalised.”
Chief Scientist at Genomics England, Professor Sir Mark Caulfied, said that genetic research into Covid-19 is playing an increasingly important role in the fight against the virus, enabling scientists to identify new forms of the virus and develop treatments.
He added: "The quicker this research can be completed, the faster we can solve the Covid puzzle and protect vulnerable people.
“The findings from the GenOMICC Covid-19 Study will improve the treatment, care and outcome for those most at risk and lower the number of deaths.”
The research project is open to anyone who tested positive for Covid but experienced mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment – volunteers can register online here.