We must not let Coronavirus stop our fight against macular disease

Coronavirus is affecting almost every area of life at the moment and it is impossible to ignore the impact it is having on all of us – our hearts go out to all those who have lost lives and loved ones in this crisis, and to those whose livelihoods are at risk.

One of our roles is to stop coronavirus causing sight loss as well. We are fighting to make sure people can still get urgent treatment for sight-threatening conditions such as macular disease. And we will continue to support the scientists whose dedicated work will find new treatments and a cure for macular disease.

But coronavirus has hit charities hard. Even a 10% drop in our income would lead to cuts in our vital support services or would cut our funding for research in half. We have already seen our fundraised income drop due to the cancellation of sponsored events and we do not know what the future will bring.

We will apply for some of the funds Government is making available to help charities but we fear the funds will not stretch far or to charities like the Macular Society.

Nevertheless, if we are to Beat Macular Disease we cannot let this virus stand in our way. And now we need to work even harder to raise funds to make sure coronavirus does not stop us finding a cure for macular disease.

We had pledged to spend at least £1 million on research this year and we already have a shortlist of high quality scientific projects that we would like to fund. But the financial uncertainties caused by the coronavirus means we have to reassess all of our spending commitments. We have launched our call for new projects to be funded in 2021. We will fund as many as we can, but we may not be able to fund as many as we would like in order to find a cure as quickly as we would like.

Coronavirus has added to our costs as we’ve had to buy equipment so that our staff can work safely at home. To help protect the Society’s work in the longer term we have had to make difficult decisions including to temporarily furlough a number of highly valued staff. We have had to postpone some important work and hunted down savings wherever we can. It’s desperately important that we continue to support the tens of thousands of people who use our services day in and day out as they live with macular disease.

We are one of only a tiny handful of sight loss charities that fund medical research and we are the only funder to focus on macular disease. The last thing we want to do is cut our funding for research because if we don’t find a cure, millions and millions of people will lose their sight to this disease in the future.

Inevitably some of the important research projects we are funding have had to be suspended during the coronavirus outbreak as labs and universities have closed, but they will re-start when this crisis is over.

There are many other researchers and research ideas who also need our support to progress their work. We won’t let coronavirus stop us funding these brilliant scientists in their work to Beat Macular Disease.

Thank you for all your support.

Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society