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Government begins large-scale testing to track COVID-19

A new and major long-term study is shortly to commence tracking the spread of the virus in the UK general population.

Initially, 20,000 households will be contacted for testing although the aim is to recruit a representative sample (by age and geography) of up to 300,00 people over the next 12 months to provide a better understanding of the current community infection rate and to determine how many people have developed antibodies to the virus.

Irrespective of whether patients report COVID-19 symptoms, all household members will be asked to provide anonymised samples from self-administered nasal and throats swabs to determine whether they have the virus. The swabbing will be repeated weekly (for the first five weeks) and then monthly over the next 12 months. Around 1000 adults will also have monthly blood samples taken at home (by a trained healthcare worker) for the next 12 months to test for COVID-19 antibodies, unless a household member has COVID-19 symptoms or is self-isolating or shielding.

The study is the fourth pillar of the UK government’s testing strategy, and it is anticipated that the results will enable researchers to predict the future trajectory of infection and inform on the most appropriate next steps.

Further information can be found that the DHSC website.