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The European Space Agency (ESA) has revealed its decision to scale-down operations at its mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, as the coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to spread.

As part of the decision, there will be adjustment in the facility, including temporarily suspending instrument operation and data gathering on four Solar System science missions.

The missions are part of the wider fleet of 21 spacecraft currently flown by the ESA from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt.

ESA operations director Rolf Densing said: “Our priority is the health of our workforce, and we will, therefore, reduce activity on some of our scientific missions, especially on interplanetary spacecraft, which currently require the highest number of personnel on-site.

“These have stable orbits and long mission durations, so turning off their science instruments and placing them into a largely unattended safe configuration for a certain period will have a negligible impact on their overall mission performance.”

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As for ESA, the agency resorts to teleworking for the majority of its workforce for nearly two weeks.

Meanwhile, crucial operations such as maintaining real-time spacecraft operations are still present on-site at ESA’s establishments across Europe.

The increased restrictions imposed by national, regional and local authorities across Europe, which are complemented by the confirmation of first Covid-19 case within the workforce at ESOC, have resulted in ESA restricting on-site personnel at its mission control centre.

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached 410,469 globally while the death toll has exceeded 18,000.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese organisers have postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to a date no later than mid-2021 due to the pandemic.

The Olympics was scheduled to begin from 24 July and end on 9 August. The postponement decision marks the first time the event has been deferred in its 124-year modern history.