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ONS infection survey suggests nearly 150,000 have COVID-19

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released preliminary results from its infections within the community survey that is designed to determine the number of people at any one time who are infected with COVID-19, or at least test positive for the virus, irrespective of whether they have symptoms.

The current results are based tests performed on 10,705 people in 5,276 households and exclude individuals in both hospital, care homes and other institutional settings. The data suggests that between 27 April and 10 May 2020, an average of 0.27% (95% confidence interval 0.17% – 0.41%) of the population, that is, 148,000 people in England were infected with COVID-19. However, the wide confidence intervals mean that the actual number can be anywhere between 94,000 and 222,000.

In terms of job roles, the analysis revealed how 1.33% of people in patient-facing roles such as doctors, nurses as well as social care roles (for example, social workers), tested positive compared with 0.22% of people not working in either of these sectors. Moreover, there was no difference in the proportions testing positive between different age categories which were grouped as 2–19, 20–49, 50–69 and 70 years and over.

The report notes that the uncertainty in their estimate will reduce as the number of people tested increases. Nevertheless, the data helps to provide an estimate of the rate of transmission (the R value) which will determine when and how the current lockdown measures are lifted.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection survey pilot: England, 10 May 2020. (accessed May 2020).