Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has announced plans to expand the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) infection survey to increase insight into the prevalence and spread of COVID-19.
Under the plans, the survey, which tracks the virus in the general population using routine swabbing and antibody testing, will expand from regularly testing 28,000 people per fortnight in England to 150,000 by October.
The ONS has also partnered with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to extend the scope of the survey across the four nations, making it UK’s largest COVID-19 surveillance survey.
Expanding the survey will play “a crucial role: in providing extensive, weekly data on the spread of infection, supporting rapid testing and diagnosis of the virus both nationally and in areas of concern, the ONS said.
“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 our understanding of the rate of infection in the population and how many people have antibodies,” Hancock noted.
“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.”
The ONS COVID-19 Infection Survey study is part of Pillar 4 of the government’s COVID-19 testing strategy, to conduct UK-wide surveillance testing to learn more about the spread of the virus and support the development of new tests and treatments.