Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, UK: 22 April 2022

Estimates for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. This survey is being delivered in partnership with University of Oxford, University of Manchester, UK Health Security Agency and Wellcome Trust. This study is jointly led by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) working with the University of Oxford and Lighthouse laboratory to collect and test samples. 

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Cyswllt:
Email Kara Steel, Elizabeth Fuller and Naomi Strivens

Dyddiad y datganiad:
22 April 2022

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
29 April 2022

1. Main points

  • In England, the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to decrease in the week ending 16 April 2022; we estimate that 3,218,700 people in England had COVID-19 (95% credible interval: 3,120,200 to 3,317,200), equating to 5.90% of the population or around 1 in 17 people.

  • In Wales, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 decreased in the week ending 16 April 2022; we estimate that 198,400 people in Wales had COVID-19 (95% credible interval: 175,100 to 222,600), equating to 6.53% of the population or around 1 in 15 people.

  • In Northern Ireland, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 continued to decrease in the week ending 16 April 2022; we estimate that 65,300 people in Northern Ireland had COVID-19 (95% credible interval: 52,300 to 79,800), equating to 3.56% of the population or around 1 in 30 people.

  • In Scotland, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 continued to decrease in the week ending 16 April 2022; we estimate that 281,400 people in Scotland had COVID-19 (95% credible interval: 253,100 to 311,700), equating to 5.35% of the population or around 1 in 19 people.

Because of a shortened publication cycle for this release (to accommodate the 15 to 18 April 2022 bank holiday weekend), analyses relating to the number of new COVID-19 infections (incidence), sub-regional positivity rates and 14-day weighted estimates have not been updated this week. Previous estimates of incidence, sub-regional positivity rates and 14-day weighted estimates can be found in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey datasets. Complete sequence data for COVID-19 variants have not been updated this week, with most recent data from the week ending 20 March 2022 reported in Section 6. The latest cycle-threshold values of positive COVID-19 tests have also not been updated this week but previous estimates can be found in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey: technical dataset.

Within this bulletin, we summarise some of the latest results from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey. For more detailed information on our methods, see our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey methodology article.

About this bulletin

In this bulletin, we refer to the number of current COVID-19 infections within the population living in private residential households. We exclude those in hospitals, care homes and/or other communal establishments. In communal establishments, rates of COVID-19 infection are likely to be different. More information about the COVID-19 pandemic from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and other sources can be found in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) latest insights.

The positivity rate is the percentage of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 on a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at a point in time. We use current COVID-19 infections to mean testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, with or without having symptoms, on a swab taken from the nose and throat. This is different to the incidence rate, which is a measure of only the new PCR positive cases in a given time period. All analysis was produced with our research partners at the University of Oxford.

Our estimates are based on confirmed positive test results. The remaining swabs are either negative, which are included in our analysis, or are inconclusive, which are not included in our analysis. Some swabs are test failures, which are also not included in our analysis. The impact of excluding inconclusive results on our estimates of positive infections is likely to be very small and unlikely to affect the trend.

More about coronavirus

Early management information from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey is made available to government decision-makers to inform their response to COVID-19. Occasionally we may publish figures early if it is considered in the public interest. We will ensure that we pre-announce any ad hoc or early publications as soon as we can. These will include supporting information where possible to aid user understanding. This is consistent with guidance from the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR).

How the data in this bulletin can be used

The data can be used for:

  • estimating the number of positive cases among the population living in private households, including cases where people do not report having any symptoms

  • identifying differences in numbers of positive cases between UK countries and different regions in England

  • estimating the number of new cases and change over time in positive cases

The data cannot be used for:

  • measuring the number of cases and infections in care homes, hospitals and/or other communal establishments

  • providing information about recovery time of those infected

The results in this bulletin are:

  • provisional and subject to revision

  • based on infections occurring in private households

  • subject to uncertainty; a credible or confidence interval gives an indication of the uncertainty of an estimate from data analysis

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2. Percentage of people who had COVID-19 in UK countries

The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to decrease in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland and decreased in Wales in the week ending 16 April 2022. Our estimates contain Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 variants and all other variants.

All estimates are based on statistical modelling of the trend in rates of positive nose and throat swab results. All estimates are subject to uncertainty given that a sample is only part of the wider population. Additionally, the estimates for the very latest days may change as more test results are received. Therefore, our official estimates for a particular week are based on a reference day a few days before the end of the week and caution should be taken in over-interpreting small movements in the very latest trends.

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Because of a relatively smaller number of tests in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland in the sample, credible intervals are wider, and results should be interpreted with caution. Wide credible intervals mean that differences between the central estimates within and between nations may appear smaller or more exaggerated than they really are.

Figure 1: The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 decreased across all UK countries in the most recent week

Estimated percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19 on nose and throat swabs, UK, 26 April 2021 to 16 April 2022

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Notes:

  1. Official reported estimates are plotted at a reference point believed to be most representative of the given week.

  2. Official estimates present the best estimate at that point in time. Modelled estimates are used to calculate the official reported estimate. The model smooths the series to understand the trend and is revised each week to incorporate new test results, providing the best indication of trend over time.

  3. Official estimates are displayed over a rolling year up to the most recent week. The full time series of our official estimates from 27 April 2020 onwards are available in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey datasets.

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About our estimates

Our headline estimates of the percentage of people testing positive in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are the latest official estimates. We include different measures to support our estimation and this section outlines the approaches used.

Official estimates should be used to understand the positivity rate for a single point in time. This is based on the modelled estimate for the latest week and is our best and most stable estimate, used in all previous outputs. The modelled estimate is more suited to understanding the recent trend. This is because the model is regularly updated to include new test results and smooths the trend over time. These modelled estimates can be found in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey datasets. For more information on our methods and quality surrounding the estimates please see our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey methods article and our Quality and Methodology Information report.

All estimates presented in this bulletin are provisional results. As swabs are not necessarily analysed in date order by the laboratory, we have not yet received test results for all swabs taken on the dates included in this analysis. Estimates may therefore be revised as more test results are included.

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3. Sub-national analysis of the percentage of people who had COVID-19

In the week ending 16 April 2022, the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to decrease in the North West, East of England, London, the South East and the South West. The percentage of people testing positive decreased in Yorkshire and The Humber, East Midlands and West Midlands in the most recent week. The trend in the North East was uncertain in the week ending 16 April 2022.

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In the data used to produce these estimates, the number of people sampled in each region who tested positive for COVID-19 was low relative to England overall. This means there is a higher degree of uncertainty in the regional estimates, as indicated by larger credible intervals.

Figure 2: The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 decreased across all regions in England in the week ending 16 April 2022, except the North East where the trend was uncertain

Modelled daily percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19 on nose and throat swabs by region, England, 6 March to 16 April 2022

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Notes:

  1. Credible intervals widen slightly at the end as there is a delay between the swab being taken and reporting of results. We report latest figures based on the reference day for that week because of this greater uncertainty in the most recent days.

  2. The percentage of people testing positive by region was calculated using a similar modelling approach to the national daily estimates in Section 2: Percentage of people who had COVID-19 in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

  3. The analysis is conducted over a six-week period, which means some positive cases move in and out of the sample. This causes variability between estimates over time, which is expected given the lower number of positive tests in each region, compared with England as a whole.

  4. We describe trends by comparing the probability that the estimate for the reference day is higher or lower than the estimate for 7 and 14 days prior.

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Sub-regional analysis of the UK

Because of a shortened publication cycle for this release (to accommodate the 15 April to 18 April 2022 bank holiday weekend), sub-regional analyses have not been updated this week. Our latest estimates for the week ending 2 April 2022 can be found in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey datasets.

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4. Age analysis of the percentage of people who had COVID-19

Age group analysis for England

Our age groups separate children and young people by school age.

In the week ending 16 April 2022, the percentage of people testing positive continued to decrease in those aged two years to school Year 6 and those in school Year 12 to those aged 69 years. In the same week, the percentage of people testing positive decreased for those in school Year 7 to school Year 11 and those aged 70 years and over. Caution should be taken in over-interpreting any small movements in the latest trend.

Figure 3: The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in England decreased in all age groups in the most recent week

Modelled daily percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19 on nose and throat swabs by age group, England, 6 March to 16 April 2022

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Notes:

  1. Credible intervals widen slightly at the end as there can be a delay between the swab being taken and reporting of results. We report latest figures based on the reference day for that week because of this greater uncertainty in the most recent days.
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Estimates are based on smaller sample sizes within each age group relative to England overall. There is a higher degree of uncertainty as indicated by larger credible intervals. These can be found in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey datasets.

We are unable to produce the same grouped analysis as presented in Figure 3 for the devolved administrations because of smaller sample sizes within each age group. However, estimates on positivity by single year of age for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland using a different model are in the following section and our accompanying datasets.

Age analysis by single year of age over time by country

In this section, we present modelled daily estimates of the percentage testing positive for COVID-19 by single year of age over time from 6 March to 16 April 2022 for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. They are produced using a different method to the grouped age analysis for England presented previously and are therefore not comparable.

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Estimates are based on smaller sample sizes within each age group in comparison with the total sample size for each country. There is a higher degree of uncertainty as indicated by larger confidence intervals. These can be found in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey datasets.

The data presented in Figure 4 for England suggest that the percentage of people testing positive decreased among all ages.

For Wales and Scotland, rates have generally decreased in children and adults, but the trend was uncertain in those aged around 60 years and older in Wales, and 70 years and older in Scotland. For Northern Ireland, rates have generally decreased among all ages.

Figure 4: The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 by single year of age over time for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland

Modelled daily percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19 on nose and throat swabs by single year of age, UK, 6 March to 16 April 2022

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Notes:

  1. These estimates use a different method to modelled daily estimates of the percentage testing positive by age group for England in the previous section and are therefore not comparable.
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Further analysis on age for WalesNorthern Ireland and Scotland is published by their respective statistical agencies. Analysis for Wales is published in English and Welsh.

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5. Number of new COVID-19 infections in UK countries

Because of a shortened publication cycle for this release (to accommodate the 15 to 18 April 2022 bank holiday weekend), analyses relating to the number of new COVID-19 infections (incidence) have not been updated this week. Our latest estimates of incidence for the week ending 19 March 2022 can be found in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey datasets.

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6. Analysis of viral load and variants of COVID-19

We publish cycle-threshold (Ct) values and a breakdown of infections by variant, based on gene positivity patterns from our swab tests. The "Cycle threshold", known as a Ct value, is a proxy for the quantity of virus (also known as viral load), where a lower Ct value indicates higher viral load. Because of a shortened publication cycle for this release (to accommodate the 15 to 18 April 2022 Bank Holiday weekend), Ct values have not been updated this week. Previous data on Ct values of positive coronavirus (COVID-19) tests were updated in our previous bulletin on 14 April 2022 and can be found in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey: technical dataset.

Our latest complete sequence data were last updated the week ending 20 March 2022 and showed that the Omicron BA.2 variant remained the most common variant in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. In that week, 89.8% of all sequenced COVID-19 infections from the survey were compatible with the Omicron BA.2 variant, and 10.2% were compatible with the Omicron BA.1 variant or its sub-variants.

The Omicron variant BA.1 has changes in one of the three genes that the coronavirus survey swab test detects, which means the S-gene is no longer detected. When there is a high viral load (for example, when a person is most infectious), not detecting the S-gene in combination with detecting the other two genes (ORF1ab and N-genes) is a reliable indicator of this Omicron BA.1 variant. However, as the viral load decreases (for example, if someone is near the end of their recovery from the infection), not detecting the S-gene is a less reliable indicator of this Omicron variant.

The Omicron variant BA.2 does not have changes in the S-gene, and therefore all three genes, or the S-gene and either ORF1ab or N, will usually be detected in infections with this variant.

Our main variant analysis is for a reference day, and therefore is not directly comparable with the sequence data. The following analysis looks at the percentage of the population with a positive test compatible with the Omicron BA.1 or BA.2 variant in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and the regions of England.

During periods of change in COVID-19 variants we will include a breakdown of estimated infections by variant to illustrate how the estimated percentage of people infected in the population is changing by variant (Figure 5). When nearly all infections are compatible with a dominant variant, we will no longer include this breakdown.

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Data should be treated with caution. There could be small numbers of positive cases compatible with a particular variant in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, leading to considerable uncertainty surrounding these estimates. Not all cases that are positive on the ORF1ab and N-genes will be the Omicron BA.1 variant, and not all cases that have a detectable S-gene will be the Omicron BA.2 variant.

In the week ending 16 April 2022, the percentage of people with infections compatible with the Omicron BA.2 variant continued to decrease in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and decreased in Wales in the same week. In the week ending 16 April 2022, the percentage of people with infections compatible with the Omicron BA.1 variant continued to decrease in England, while the trend was uncertain for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Figure 5: The percentage of people with infections compatible with the Omicron BA.2 variant decreased in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland in the most recent week

Modelled percentage of the population testing positive for infections compatible with the Omicron BA.1 variant and Omicron BA.2 variant, based on nose and throat swabs, daily, UK, 6 March to 16 April 2022

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Notes:

  1. Omicron BA.1 variant-compatible positives are defined as those that are positive on the ORF1ab-gene and N-gene, but not the S-gene. This group includes Omicron BA.1.1.

  2. Omicron BA.2 variant-compatible positives are defined as those that are positive on the ORF1ab-gene, N-gene and S-gene, on the ORF1ab-gene and S-gene, or on the N-gene and S-gene.

  3. Data should be treated with caution. Not all infections positive on the S-gene will be the Omicron BA.2 variant, and some infections with pattern ORF1ab+N will also be the Omicron BA.2 variant where the S-gene was not detected for other reasons, such as low viral load.

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In the week ending 16 April 2022, the percentage of people testing positive with infections compatible with the Omicron BA.2 variant continued to decrease in the North West, East of England, London, the South East and the South West. In the same week, the percentage of people testing positive for infections compatible with the Omicron BA.2 variant decreased in the North East, Yorkshire and The Humber, East Midlands and West Midlands.

In the week ending 16 April 2022, the percentage of people with infections compatible with the Omicron BA.1 variant continued to decrease in the East of England and South East, and decreased in the North West in the same week. The percentage of people with infections compatible with the Omicron BA.1 variant increased in the North East in the week ending 16 April 2022. The trend was uncertain in all other regions in the most recent week. These modelled estimates can be found in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey datasets.

Because Omicron BA.2 is now the dominant variant, from next week we will no longer be including the modelled percentage of the population testing positive for infections compatible with the Omicron BA.1 variant and Omicron BA.2 variant figure.

The World Health Organization (WHO) have defined names for variants of concern. These are variants that the UK government has under surveillance.

Currently circulating variants of concern in the UK are:

  • Delta: B.1.617.2 and its genetic descendants
  • Omicron: B.1.1.529 (which includes sublineages BA.1, BA.2, BA.3, BA.4 and BA.5)

You can find out more in the latest SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and variants under investigation in England briefing document on GOV.UK.

Our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey: technical dataset includes analysis of the genetic lineages of coronavirus seen in the samples we sequence. More information on how we measure variants from positive tests on the survey can be found in our Understanding COVID-19 variants blogOur Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey methods article gives more detail about how we sequence the virus' genetic material.

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7. Test sensitivity and specificity

The estimates provided in Sections 2 to 6 are for the percentage of the private-residential population testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), otherwise known as the positivity rate. We do not report the prevalence rate. To calculate the prevalence rate, we would need an accurate understanding of the swab test's sensitivity (true-positive rate) and specificity (true-negative rate).

While we do not know the true sensitivity and specificity of the test, our data and related studies provide an indication of what these are likely to be. In particular, the data suggest that the false-positive rate is very low - under 0.005%. We do not know the sensitivity of the swab test. However, other studies suggest that sensitivity (the rate of true-positive test results) may be somewhere between 85% and 98%.

You can find more information on sensitivity and specificity in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey methods article and our blog that explains why we trust the data from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey. You can find more information on the data suggesting that our test's false-positive rate is very low in a paper written by academic partners at the University of Oxford.

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8. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey data

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey: England
Dataset | Released 22 April 2022
Findings from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey for England.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey: Northern Ireland
Dataset | Released 22 April 2022
Findings from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey for Northern Ireland.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey: Scotland
Dataset | Released 22 April 2022
Findings from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey for Scotland.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey: Wales
Dataset | Released 22 April 2022
Findings from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey for Wales.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey: technical data
Dataset | Released 22 April 2022
Technical and methodological data from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

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9. Collaboration

Logos for London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Public Health England

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey analysis was produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in collaboration with our research partners at the University of Oxford, the University of Manchester, UK Health Security Agency (UK HSA) and Wellcome Trust. Of particular note are:

  • Sarah Walker - University of Oxford, Nuffield Department for Medicine: Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology and Study Chief Investigator

  • Koen Pouwels - University of Oxford, Health Economics Research Centre, Nuffield Department of Population Health: Senior Researcher in Biostatistics and Health Economics

  • Thomas House - University of Manchester, Department of Mathematics: Reader in Mathematical Statistics

  • Anna Seale - University of Warwick, Warwick Medical School: Professor of Public Health; UK Health Security Agency, Data, Analytics and Surveillance: Scientific Advisor

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10. Glossary

Age groups for children and young people

  • "aged 2 years to school Year 6" includes children in primary school and below

  • "school Year 7 to school Year 11" includes children in secondary school

  • "school Year 12 to those aged 24 years" includes young adults who may be in further or higher education

Those aged from 11 to 12 years and those aged 16 to 17 years have been split between different age categories depending on whether their birthday is before or after 1 September.

Confidence interval

A confidence interval gives an indication of the degree of uncertainty of an estimate, showing the precision of a sample estimate. The 95% confidence intervals are calculated so that if we repeated the study many times, 95% of the time the true unknown value would lie between the lower and upper confidence limits. A wider interval indicates more uncertainty in the estimate. Overlapping confidence intervals indicate that there may not be a true difference between two estimates. For more information, see our methodology page on statistical uncertainty.

Credible interval

A credible interval gives an indication of the uncertainty of an estimate from data analysis. The 95% credible intervals are calculated so that there is a 95% probability of the true value lying in the interval.

Cycle threshold (Ct) values

The strength of a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test is determined by how quickly the virus is detected, measured by a cycle threshold (Ct) value. The lower the Ct value, the higher the viral load and stronger the positive test. Positive results with a high Ct value can be seen in the early stages of infection when virus levels are rising, or late in the infection, when the risk of transmission is low.

False-positives and false-negatives

A false-positive result occurs when the tests suggest a person has COVID-19 when in fact they do not. By contrast, a false-negative result occurs when the tests suggest a person does not have COVID-19 when in fact they do. For more information on false-positives and false-negatives, see our methods article and our blog.

Incidence rate

The incidence rate is a measure of the estimated number of new polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-positive cases per day per 10,000 people at a given point in time. It is different to positivity, which is an estimate of all current PCR positive cases at a point in time, regardless of whether the infection is new or existing.

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11. Measuring the data

Reference dates

We aim to provide the estimates of positivity rate (the percentage of those who test positive) and incidence that are most timely and most representative of each week. We decide the most recent week we can report on based on the availability of test results for visits that have already happened, accounting for the fact that swabs have to be couriered to the labs, tested and results returned. On most occasions, the reference dates align perfectly, but sometimes this is not feasible. This week, the reference week for positivity is 10 April to 16 April 2022 for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Within the most recent week, we provide an official estimate for positivity rate based on a reference point from the modelled trends. For positivity rates, we can include all swab test results, even from the most recent visits. Therefore, although we are still expecting further swab test results from the labs, there were sufficient data for the official estimate for infection to be based on a reference point after the start of the reference week. To improve stability in our modelling while maintaining relative timeliness of our estimates, we are reporting our official estimates based on the midpoint of the reference week. This week, the reference day for positivity rates is Wednesday 13 April 2022 for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Response rates

Enrolment for this wave of recruitment for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey ceased on 31 January 2022. Response rates for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland can be regarded as final response rates to the survey. Response rates for each nation are found in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey: technical dataset. We provide response rates separately for the different sampling phases of the study. Additional information on response rates can be found in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey methods article.

Survey fieldwork

Survey fieldwork for the pilot study began in England on 26 April 2020. In Wales, fieldwork began on 29 June 2020, in Northern Ireland fieldwork began on 26 July 2020 and in Scotland fieldwork began on 21 September 2020.

Other Coronavirus Infection Survey (CIS) analysis and studies

This study is one of a number of studies that look to provide information around the coronavirus pandemic within the UK. For information on other studies see Section 5: Quality characteristics of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey (coherence and comparability), revised 16 July 2021.

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12. Strengths and limitations

These statistics have been produced quickly in response to developing world events. The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), on behalf of the UK Statistics Authority, has reviewed them on 14 May 2020 and 17 March 2021 against several important aspects of the Code of Practice for Statistics and regards them as consistent with the Code's pillars of trustworthinessquality and value.

The estimates presented in this bulletin contain uncertainty. There are many sources of uncertainty, including uncertainty in the test, in the estimates and in the quality of data collected in the questionnaire. Information on the main sources of uncertainty are presented in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey Quality and Methodology Information report, our methodology article, and our blog that explains why we trust the data from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Kara Steel, Elizabeth Fuller and Naomi Strivens
infection.survey.analysis@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 1633 560499