The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, led by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in partnership with the University of Oxford and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), tracks rates of COVID-19 infections, reinfections and levels of immunity in the general population. The data were recognised as “critical surveillance” in line with the UK government’s Living with COVID plan announced in February.
Recognised internationally as the “gold standard”, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey has gathered and analysed more than 9 million swab tests and 2.2 million blood tests from hundreds of thousands of participants. It has been pivotal to the pandemic response so far and will now continue to be a core element in monitoring the virus including the impact of any new variants, such as Omicron BA.5, which is driving current increases in infections.
The survey will be moving to a more flexible approach for participants, introducing a digital questionnaire and sending swab and blood sample kits via the post.
Questionnaires will be filled out online, and participants will package their samples and take them to their nearest priority post box any time over a two-week period. Other options will be available for those who are unable to take part online or by post.
Participants will complete tests every month, with an average of 9,000 tests being completed every day. Models will continue to adjust according to the characteristics of the sample, to ensure estimates accurately represent the population.
Sir Ian Diamond, National Statistician, said:
“The unique value of the COVID-19 Infection Survey has been recognised worldwide.
“The representative sample of people we will continue to test has been carefully designed to track the virus and monitor antibody levels in communities across the UK, efficiently and effectively, as everyone learns to live with COVID-19.”
Professor Sarah Walker, Chief Investigator of the COVID-19 Infection Survey, said:
“By following people closely over many months, the COVID-19 Infection Survey can find out how previous infection and vaccination work together to change how likely people are to get COVID-19 again – information that is vital to working out who might need “booster” vaccinations in the future.
“Every participant makes a unique contribution, and remains vitally important as we move to this new approach.”
UK Health Security Agency CEO Dr Jenny Harries said:
“Since the beginning of the pandemic the work done by the UK Health and Security Agency and the Office for National Statistics has been crucial in enabling us to have a good understanding of the important COVID-19 data, and we are therefore delighted to continue our partnership with them.
“As we learn to live with the virus, the world-leading COVID-19 Infection Survey will work alongside surveillance programmes in care homes and the NHS to help continue to monitor coronavirus and its effects on the UK population.”
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