ONS to ramp up coronavirus data-gathering

Government announces expansion of fortnightly survey

Credit: Katie Collins/EMPICS Entertainment

The UK is set to launch a major expansion of its coronavirus monitoring programme, Matt Hancock has announced.

The health secretary said the expansion of the Office for National Statistics survey would help provide data on the national spread of the virus as well as advance warning of local outbreaks. 

The survey currently tests 28,000 people each fortnight, but will boost that to 150,000 by October, with a target of eventually reaching 400,000 across England. The weekly data from the survey can show where infections are spreading, but also provides information on those who may already have antibodies against the virus.

Tens of thousands of people have already been approached to take part in the survey, with Hancock saying those who agree will play a “vital role” in tackling the virus.

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“This country now has the capacity to test for coronavirus on an unprecedented scale and this ONS survey will be a crucial part of this work – improving out understanding of the rate of infection in the population and how many people have antibodies,” he said. “This will allow us to further narrow down the areas potentially affected by local outbreaks and continue our fight to curb the spread ahead of winter.”

Hancock added: “I urge anyone who is able to take part in this study to do so – you will be playing a vital role in the fight against the virus. The data and insight gathered will help inform our national, regional and local responses to the pandemic, allowing this nation to get back to the things we love doing.”

The ONS has also partnered with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to provide information on the spread of the disease across the four nations.

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, the UK’s national statistician, added: “Vigilance is key to containing this pandemic and the extra data on the spread of infections and antibodies at local level will be invaluable to the planning of effective local responses. Following this expansion, the ONS-led COVID 19 Infection Survey will be the highest of its kind in this country. If you’ve been approached to take part, then please do so. You will be helping us all to contain this terrible virus and get on with our lives.”


Sam Trendall

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