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CEO Statement on COVID-19

Our CEO, Oliver Kemp, outlines the likely impact of Coronavirus on PCRC

COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Since December 2019, the latest Coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak has become a global concern. It now poses a significant risk to PCRCs income streams in 2020 and the delivery of sections of our research strategy.

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus (both SARS and MERS are also coronaviruses). While much is still unknown about its origin and transmission, as it is a new virus, the lack of immunity in the population (and the absence as yet of an effective vaccine) means that COVID-19 has the potential to spread extensively. The current data seem to show that we are all susceptible to catching this disease, and thus it is more likely than not that the UK will be significantly affected.

As of yesterday, 12 March 2020, the UK has moved from the ‘containment’ to the ‘delay phase’ of its Coronavirus Action Plan, and the WHO has now declared it a pandemic.

Coronavirus and Cancer

If you or someone you know has prostate cancer, you can find out more about coronavirus and prostate cancer, and how you can protect your health here.

People who are receiving chemotherapy, have received chemotherapy within the past three months, or are receiving immunotherapy or any treatment likely to affect their immune system, may be more likely to become seriously ill if infected with coronavirus. If this applies to you, or you are unsure about whether treatment you are receiving or have had in the past will affect your immunity, please talk to your own care team or phone NHS 111.

The NHS has committed to continuing to provide cancer care as normal. In the event of any disruption they will prioritise patients most in need of treatment, and in consultation with patients.

Economic Impact of COVID-19

The 2003 SARS outbreak, which infected about 8,000 people and killed 774, cost the global economy an estimated US$50 billion. The 2015 MERS outbreak in South Korea, meanwhile, infected 200 people and killed 38, but led to estimated costs of US$8.5 billion. Already, the coronavirus epidemic has had a greater economic effect than either of these predecessors. Wall Street has joined a global sell-off; the S&P 500 index of US companies fell by 11.5% the week commencing on February 24, the worst week since the 2008 crisis. On the 9th March 2020, a day that has already been dubbed “Black Monday,” stock markets plummeted even further.

“The coronavirus now looks like a pandemic. Markets can cope even if there is big risk as long as we can see the end of the tunnel,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. “But at the moment, no one can tell how long this will last and how severe it will get.”

Impact of COVID-19 PCRC’s Income

We are 100% reliant on donations to achieve our goals. However, our duty of care to people affected by prostate cancer, our volunteers, and our staff, comes first. We are aware that a significant number of our supporters are men with prostate cancer, and their families. According to current data, these men are at much higher risk of fatality if they contract COVID-19 due to age, gender and comorbid conditions detailed above. For that reason we have just made the decision to cancel our flagship fundraising event, the Horizon Dinner, which was scheduled to take place on 26th March, and which had an income target of £170,000.

We are likely to experience a difficult fundraising environment as events and community fundraising, which historically was our primary source of income, and together still make up about 25% of our income, are likely to suffer. At the same time, we have to be realistic and face up to the fact that some trusts, major donors and corporates who generously support our mission to create a better future for families affected by prostate cancer may be impacted by the falling stock markets.

However, we can invest in areas of fundraising which are less likely to be affected, such as statutory fundraising and building partnerships with companies who are more resilient to the current situation. We will also use this time to build our internal capacity and skillset which will help us to grow in the long run. Last year, we took the decision to discontinue our investment in stock markets. Whereas this had been a valuable source of income for us, we felt that the situation was becoming too risky as in the event of a situation such as this, we could have been hit with a ‘double whammy’ of both investments and fundraising declining simultaneously. We also employ a talented team which was capable of diversifying our fundraising.

Impact on PCRC’s Activities

We have enough money in reserves to continue our current programmes for a full year, and to cover the costs of running the charity for more than 2 years. Our next grant call, which we intend to open in April, will go ahead, as we have enough resources to do so, and we have ensured that the process can go ahead should COVID-19 or the next stage of the government’s action plan disrupt our ability to hold in-person meetings or travel to the office. However, some of our other expenditure, such as a new, innovative fund designed to support scientists to collaborate, representing approximately 10% of this year’s planned expenditure, will be postponed until we have more clarity on our income.

Large events, whether fundraising or patient engagement events such as our recent Meet the Scientists will be assessed on a case-by-case basis to ensure we can guarantee the health and safety of participants. Our patient involvement events can be done remotely, with participants dialling in, if necessary.

We are also aware of our duty of care to our staff, and our employees have been reminded of their duty to take reasonable care to ensure that they do not endanger themselves or anyone who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work. Staff are previously advised not to come to the office if they are feeling unwell. All staff are used to working from home and routinely do so one day a week. In response to COVID-19 we have already increased home working, created a contact list for staff, and started doing more virtual meetings. We have also made a list of all tasks that require a physical presence such as opening the post, telephone answering and banking, and are developing solutions to complete these without endangering anyone, should the government escalate its plans.

Coming together in the face of adversity

Thanks to our supporters, our flexible approach, and the preparations we have already done, we are in a strong position to navigate the likely impact of coronavirus without diminishing our impact or compromising current activities. But we need to pull together more than ever before to maintain momentum and continue to increase impact in these challenging times. To reiterate, we are 100% reliant on support from individuals, companies and trusts. By 2035, prostate cancer could kill 50 men a day in the UK if breakthroughs are not made, and we just couldn’t go about our work to improve the lives of men and their families dealing with prostate cancer without our supporters. Joining us in support of Prostate Cancer Research Centre, in whatever way you can, is now more important than ever so we can continue with our work and hopefully do more. You can support us by raising our profile and the critical importance of scientific research and by donating or sponsoring as much as you can. Together, we can continue to fund innovative and life-saving research into advanced prostate cancer. For more information, including ways to support us, please go to www.pcr.org.uk/support-us.

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