The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is launching a new UK-wide study on the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) and other respiratory infections.

The COVID-19 and Respiratory Infection Survey (CRIS) will provide evidence on the current prevalence of self-reported viral symptoms including long COVID and their knock-on social impacts including work absences.

It could also act as an early warning system for the NHS and other healthcare services. This could help them prepare for potential pressures.

The survey will build on the legacy of the world-leading UK COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS) by inviting a subset of participants from that study to answer questions periodically on the state of their health and their use of healthcare services. Their responses will help to build a picture of how different areas and age groups are now being affected by COVID-19 and other viruses.

National Statistician Sir Ian Diamond says: “It’s fair to say the original COVID-19 Infection Survey was regarded internationally as unique, both in the sheer scale of its operation and the incredible research value of the data it generated.

While the social disruption of the early phases of the pandemic has now thankfully eased, there remains a clear need for some ongoing surveillance of this kind to help us continue to manage and understand the virus and its effects.

This interim survey will also help us to maintain the skills and operational capability to stand up another large-scale community surveillance study in future. The need to be able to do that was more than amply demonstrated by the sudden and unexpected emergence of COVID-19 in 2020.” 

Over three years of operation, the previous COVID-19 Infection Survey collected over 11 million swab samples and 3 million blood samples from randomly-selected households to inform the governmental response to the coronavirus pandemic across the UK.

The new study will invite 300,000 participants from the previous survey, which was paused in March 2023, to take part.   

It is currently scheduled to operate during May and June with the first results expected in early June.