Third-level institutes are fast-tracking research programmes to devise new ways of dealing with the challenges posed by the coronavirus.

Initial funding of €5m has been allocated to examine potential medical treatments, smart technology and other practical solutions that can be employed in the coming months.

The funding follows a call from the Health Research Board and Science Foundation Ireland for rapid response research to tackle the impact of Covid-19.

It is part of a wider international effort to develop solutions and provide real-time data to inform policy responses.

The impact of existing measures will be analysed in detail to determine how effective they are and to see what the longer term implications could be.

A total of 26 projects have been selected following submissions from third-level institutions around the country.

The Government has said around 200 other projects were being assessed at present and more will be approved in the coming weeks.

Many of the research teams will be working on the development of new treatments and working on medical technologies that can be deployed in the fight against Covid-19.

Others will examine how measures such as social distancing will have to be reinforced and strengthened in the coming weeks.

Seven of the projects will be undertaken at NUI Galway.

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The School of Economics there is working on an analysis of real-time data to examine the effects of the shutdown and the State's income support measures on income distribution.

Professor John McHale said the research highlighted how nimble the third-level sector could be in assisting the development of policy during an unprecedented public health crisis.

Other research will look at how Covid-19 testing can be expedited, using artificial intelligence to analyse CT scans, while behavioural psychologists are examining the best ways to promote and reinforce social distancing guidelines, if and when the existing restrictions are eased.

In Cork, Professor Ivan Perry of UCC's School of Public Health will lead a study estimating the burden of symptomatic disease in the community, and the impact of public health measures on physical, mental and social well-being.

As part of the research, thousands of people will be asked to detail their experiences of the pandemic.