The long-running weekly Covid-19 infection study in the UK, which is regarded as the “gold standard” for determining the prevalence of coronavirus in the general community, is ceasing data collection.
Health officials have announced that the study, which is based on a sample of tests from homes across the nation, will be “paused” as of March 31.
It will be announced when there are any new surveys.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has been in charge of the infection survey, which has been running for almost three years and serving as the most accurate indicator of the prevalence of Covid-19 in the UK.
It has given crucial information on infection rates in all four of the country’s nations, as well as on English areas and age categories, and it has made it possible to precisely identify and monitor the virus’s successive waves.
Also, it has provided important details on the introduction of new variations, antibody levels, long Covid, and the traits of persons infected with the virus.
The study collected swabs and blood samples from households regardless of whether people knew they had Covid-19 or whether they were reporting results to the NHS, so it offered a useful glimpse of the virus’s true spread, which was frequently understated by government statistics.
For instance, data from the poll revealed there were half a million new infections per day in the UK during the wave of the virus in spring 2022 caused by the Omicron strain BA.2 – eight times the amount being recorded on the Government’s dashboard.
In the summer and fall of 2020, just following the initial wave of the virus, the survey was implemented throughout the UK.
But since then, it has tracked every wave, and its data shows that the biggest one peaked in spring 2022 at 4.9 million infections per week, followed by the wave of winter 2021/22 that peaked at 4.3 million infections.
The study has recently assisted in tracking the size and development of the Christmas 2022 wave, which peaked at around three million infections, as well as an increase in the virus’ prevalence during February 2023.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced that it will “confirm specifics of any new monitoring surveys that continue beyond March 31 2023 in due time. Data gathering for the Covid-19 infection survey will be suspended in the meantime.
The survey has been a “important tool” in understanding coronavirus, according to Professor Steven Riley, director-general of data for the UKHSA. He continued, “We will continue to ensure our surveillance activities remain proportionate and cost-effective with the move to living with Covid-19.
We are still dedicated to keeping an eye on the threat presented by Covid-19 using a variety of surveillance systems and genomics tools that track infection rates, hospitalizations, and the dangers associated with novel variants.
“The epidemic has been a challenging test of our ability to obtain and analyze data fast, and the particular usefulness of the Covid-19 infection survey (CIS) has been recognized internationally,” said Sir Ian Diamond, chief executive of the ONS and a national statistician.
“The results of this survey have significantly influenced how the nation has responded to the pandemic, and its success gives hope for the ability to expand monitoring efforts in the future.
“As UKHSA works to confirm its strategy to Covid-19 surveillance, we hope to continue gaining insightful information about the experiences of Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses, as well as extended Covid in communities, and look forward to continuing to collaborate with CIS participants to do so.”
The UKHSA, the Oxford and Manchester Universities, the ONS, and the Wellcome Trust collaborated to deliver the infection survey.