About this programme


The world is confronted with a pandemic from the new coronavirus (also called SARS-CoV-2) that can cause the disease COVID-19. This pandemic and the measures taken in conjunction with it have a major impact on people and society as well as care, cure and well-being. Since the start of the outbreak, the coronavirus crisis has led to a wide range of challenges for everybody. In the longer term, the pandemic will also have effects that we cannot yet foresee. Knowledge, practical solutions and research are needed to limit the negative consequences of the pandemic, and to learn from the negative and positive experiences, both now and in the longer term.

All science disciplines

This concerns not just medical or care-related research. All scientific areas can make a relevant contribution, such as the social sciences, natural and physical sciences and engineering sciences. Interdisciplinary collaboration is particularly necessary under these circumstances. Both descriptive and prescriptive research are possible.


The pandemic is still developing and measures can elicit unexpected questions. The content of the programme is therefore flexible in nature so that room can be given to urgent or emerging issues that cannot (yet) be foreseen.

Other research into COVID-19

This programme is the so-called second wave funding that ZonMw is organising in response to the pandemic. In March, prior to this programme, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and the Dutch Research Council (NWO) requested ZonMw to fund, as soon as possible, interventions or intervention studies with a possible direct effect on public health. In response to this request, ZonMw therefore started a COVID-19 first wave funding programme.

Worldwide problem

By definition, a pandemic is a global problem. Although the programme primarily focuses on the Dutch situation, the international character of the coronavirus crisis and the global effects of the measures taken against it requires a broader global view. This is also in the interest of the Netherlands. ZonMw therefore continuously aligns itself with the WHO Coordinated Global Research Roadmap: 2019 novel coronavirus disease, and with GloPID-R, an international network of research funding bodies in the area of infectious disease outbreaks.


The new coronavirus has been given the name severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), by the Coronaviridae Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The disease this virus causes is called “Coronavirus Disease 2019”, abbreviated as COVID-19.
People with COVID-19 often experience symptoms, such as head colds, a running nose, sneezing, a sore throat, light cough, elevated temperature, fever and/or shortness of breath. The disease can cause severe pneumonia, which people also die from. This new coronavirus is different from the known coronaviruses that occur in humans.

Programme aim and focus areas

Three key objectives:

  • Contributions to controlling the coronavirus pandemic and preventing or reducing the negative effects of the measures taken against it. For example:
    • helping people who have fallen ill;
    • supporting vulnerable people in society affected by the measures; and
    • describing the negative effects of redeploying treatment capacity.
  • Generating new knowledge about the control of epidemics and pandemics:
    • generating knowledge about the diagnostics, treatment and recovery from COVID-19 and related illnesses as well as the prevention of these;
    • generating knowledge about logistics and supply lines for the necessary materials and equipment; and
    • data collection/analysis, modelling and technical possibilities to follow and predict the pandemic.
  • Generating knowledge about the (global) societal dynamics during and after this and comparable drastic health crises and the measures taken against these. This societal dynamic is not limited to within the Netherlands. Worldwide, the consequences of measures taken against the spread of the virus could well be greater than the virus itself.

Three focus areas:

  1. Predictive diagnostics and treatment
    In this focus area, the emphasis is on urgently needed research for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19-related complaints in the early, acute and recovery phases.
    This concerns research into new or existing therapies and their working mechanisms, and to obtain insights into, amongst other things, the microbiome, immunity, predictive parameters and individualised treatment.
  2. Care and prevention
    This focus area concerns research aimed at the organisation of care and at vulnerable citizens. In addition, there is specific attention for care providers, in the approach for preventing infection and in the (psychosocial) supervision during and after crisis situations in care institutions. The focus lies on both the impact of behaviour and behavioural changes on the spread of the virus, as well as the consequences of the measures for the individual or for specific vulnerable groups.
  3. Societal dynamics
    Research within this focus area concerns the impact of the coronavirus crisis and the measures on (aspects of) the broad Dutch and global society. What are the societal consequences of the coronavirus crisis? Which social and economic problems have been exposed or have arisen as a result of this? But also: which positive effects does the crisis have? Which restart scenarios exist after a shorter or longer period of economic and widespread societal disruption? What can we learn from the crisis for the future?

Open Science, Open Access and FAIR data

In line with ZonMw and NWO signing the international statement to make all data and publications publicly available as quickly as possible in the fight against COVID-19, all data and results must be published without embargo immediately in Open Access form and in accordance with research data management and stewardship (RDM) so that all data are FAIR.

Open Science in COVID-19 research: All you need to know about open science, open access publications and FAIR data stewardship in COVID-19 research projects.

More corona research

Relevant documents

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