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Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections


In the latest week (ending 18 September 2021), the estimated percentage of the community population that had COVID-19 was:

  • 1.14% in England (1 in 90 people)

  • 1.67% in Wales (1 in 60 people)

  • 1.65% in Northern Ireland (1 in 60 people)

  • 2.28% in Scotland (1 in 45 people)

More than 1 in 10 study participants reported experiencing long COVID 12 weeks after infection (26 April 2020 to 1 August 2021).

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Infections

Infection trends varied across the four UK nations

Estimated percentage of the population testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) on nose and throat swabs from 7 August 2020 to 18 September 2021

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In the week ending 18 September 2021, the percentage of people testing positive decreased in England (1.14%). The trend was uncertain in Wales (1.67%) and Northern Ireland (1.65%) in the most recent week. In Scotland, the positivity rate appeared level (2.28%).

Last updated: 24/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey and Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission study show similar trends over time

Estimated percentage of the community population testing positive for COVID-19, 27 April 2020 to 18 September 2021, England

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The Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT) and Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey (CIS) show similar trends over time.

CIS and REACT both estimate how many infections there are in the community, although they use different methods and publish data covering different time periods.

Last updated: 24/09/2021

Read more about this in Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT) study

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COVID-19 case rates varied by socio-demographic characteristics

  • Throughout the pandemic (1 September 2020 to 25 July 2021), COVID-19 case rates were highest among people living in the most deprived areas and in urban areas. 

  • In the second wave (1 September 2020 to 22 May 2021), case rates were higher among people born outside of the UK, but in the third wave (23 May to 25 July 2021) rates were higher among those born in the UK. 

  • Case rates varied by religious affiliation, with people identifying as Muslim or Sikh having the highest rates in the second wave, whereas the Christian group had the highest rates in the third wave. 

  • During the second wave, case rates were lowest among people where the household reference person was in a higher managerial occupation, however in the third wave rates were lowest among people where the household reference person had never worked or was long-term unemployed.   

  • Overall, case rates were lower among disabled people compared with non-disabled people. 

Last updated: 20/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) case rates by socio-demographic characteristics, England: 1 September 2020 to 25 July 2021

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COVID-19 case rates were highest among Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups in the second wave

Age-standardised COVID-19 case rates case per 100,000 person-weeks, by ethnic group, 1 September 2020 to 25 July 2021, England

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COVID-19 case rates were highest among Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups during the second wave (1 September 2020 to 22 May 2021), but in the third wave (23 May 2021 – 25 July 2021) the highest rate was seen among the White British group. Case rates were lowest in the Chinese group in both waves of the pandemic.

A COVID-19 case is defined as a person who had at least one positive COVID-19 test in a given time period. Rates in this analysis are age-standardised case rates per 100,000 person-weeks.

Last updated: 20/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) case rates by socio-demographic characteristics, England: 1 September 2020 to 25 July 2021

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Individuals reinfected with COVID-19 had a lower viral load with the second infection

For individuals infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) for a second time, average viral load was lower compared with the first infection. This suggests most of these individuals may have had a stronger immune response to the initial infection, which helped them respond to the reinfection more effectively. However, the number of reinfections was low overall.

Last updated: 25/08/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, characteristics of people testing positive for COVID-19

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Infections by region

The percentage of people testing positive decreased in Yorkshire and the Humber, London and the South East

Estimated percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19 on nose and throat swabs, daily, by region from 1 August to 18 September 2021, England

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The percentage of people testing positive continued to fluctuate across the English regions in the week ending 18 September 2021. The positivity rate continued to increase in the North West and decreased in Yorkshire and The Humber, London and the South East. Trends were uncertain in all other regions.

Caution should be taken in over-interpreting any small changes in the latest trend.

Last updated: 24/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey

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The percentage testing positive varies across sub-regions of the UK

Estimated percentage of the population testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) on nose and throat swabs by sub-regional geography, UK, 12 September to 18 September 2021

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The percentage testing positive for COVID-19 varies across sub-regions of the UK. To see local infection rates select an area on the interactive map.

Last updated: 24/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey

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Infections by age

The positivity rate increased for primary and secondary school-age children

Estimated percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19 on nose and throat swabs, daily, by age group from, 8 August to 18 September 2021, England

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The percentage of people testing positive continued to fluctuate across age groups in the latest week (week ending 18 September 2021). The positivity rate increased in primary (aged 2 to school Year 6) and secondary school-age children (school Years 7 to 11). The trend was uncertain for those aged 50 to 69 years and rates decreased in all other age groups in the latest week.

Last updated: 24/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey

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Symptoms

Over half of people testing positive for COVID-19 reported symptoms in August 2021

Unweighted percentage of people with symptoms, including only those who have strong positive tests (Ct less than 30) by month, UK, 1 December 2020 to 31 August 2021

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In the UK, 58% of people testing positive for COVID-19 reported symptoms in August 2021. Symptoms reported were more likely to be "classic" symptoms than gastrointestinal or loss of taste or smell only. The prevalence of “classic”, “loss of taste or smell” and any symptoms was generally lower between March and May 2021 compared with other months. This is consistent with lower average viral load between March and May 2021. The most commonly reported symptoms continue to be cough, fatigue and headache.

Last updated: 22/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, characteristics of people testing positive for COVID-19

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Long COVID

More than 1 in 10 study participants reported experiencing long COVID 12 weeks after infection

Estimated percentage of study participants with self-reported long COVID with time from infection, UK: 26 April 2020 to 1 August 2021

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Among Coronavirus Infection Survey (CIS) participants who tested positive for COVID-19, 14.1% were estimated to be experiencing self-reported long COVID of any severity 4 weeks after infection, falling to 11.7% at 12 weeks. The estimated percentage experiencing self-reported long COVID resulting in limitation to day-to-day activities was lower, at 9.3% at 4 weeks after infection and 7.5% at 12 weeks.

The percentage of participants estimated to be experiencing self-reported long COVID 4 or 12 weeks after infection was highest in adults aged 50 to 69 years (19.1% and 15.7% respectively) and lowest in children aged 2 to 11 years (1.9% and 1.7% respectively).

Note that experimental estimates of the prevalence of symptoms that remain 12 weeks after COVID-19 infection range from 3.0% to 11.7%, depending on the approach used. The analysis described here focuses on one of the three approaches investigated, based on self-classification of long COVID. Read our technical article for more on the other approaches.

Last updated: 16/09/2021

Read more about this in: Technical article: Updated estimates of the prevalence of post-acute symptoms among people with coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK, 26 April 2020 to 1 August 2021

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An estimated 970,000 people in the UK were experiencing self-reported long COVID

  • An estimated 970,000 people in private households (1.5%) were experiencing self-reported long COVID at 1 August 2021.

  • Of those reporting long COVID symptoms, 4 in 10 were experiencing these symptoms over a year after the first (suspected) infection.  

  • Symptoms adversely affected the day-to-day activities of around two-thirds (66%) of those with self-reported long COVID.  

  • Fatigue (58%), shortness of breath (42%), muscle ache (32%) and difficulty concentrating (31%) were the most common long COVID symptoms experienced.  

  • Self-reported long COVID was more common among those aged 35 to 69 years, females, people living in the most deprived areas, those working in health or social care, and those with another health condition or disability.

Last updated: 02/09/2021  

Read more about this in: Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the UK: 2 September 2021

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Further information


The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey (CIS) and REACT study both track COVID-19 infections in the community, excluding people in hospitals, care homes and other institutional settings. They test randomly selected individuals that might or might not be experiencing symptoms. Their positivity rates are modelled estimates adjusted to represent the population. NHS Test and Trace data refer to people tested because of specific reasons. These might include people experiencing symptoms, being in contact with a known case or employer referral. NHS Test and Trace data includes new cases in the community, hospitals and care homes.

To find out more about infections data from different sources visit our more information page.

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Contact

Latest insights team
infection.survey.analysis@ons.gov.uk