NEW YORK – The UK's Department of Health and Social Care announced Wednesday that the Office for National Statistics is expanding its COVID-19 infection survey tracking the virus in the country's general population.
The ONS COVID-19 Infection Survey will expand from testing 28,000 people every two weeks to 150,000 by October, and the agency's goal is to reach 400,000 people across the project, it said. The new data is intended to provide more extensive data and "support rapid testing and diagnosis of COVID-19 on a national and local level, helping to narrow down the areas of concern," the DHSC said in a statement.
The ONS has also partnered with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to expand the survey across the UK and said it will prioritize testing in northwest England and London due to upticks in infection rates in those areas.
The survey is led by the ONS and the University of Oxford and is partnering with departments of health across the UK to provide swabbing and antibody tests. Participants are asked to provide samples and answer questions from a trained health worker, and then continue taking tests every week for the first five weeks and then every month for a year. Twenty percent of participants will also provide a blood sample for antibody testing.
The government is also providing £2 million ($2.64 million) to the ZOE COVID-19 Symptom Study App to support ongoing data collection by ZOE, a UK-based startup. People using the app can regularly log symptoms and check whether they have tested positive for the virus. Data from it is analyzed by researchers from King's College London to identify local outbreaks, predict who has the virus, track infections, and identify high-risk people and areas. The DHSC noted that the government will not be able to access the base data from the app.