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Publication - Statistics

Coronavirus (COVID-19): ONS Infection Survey - headline results - 1 April 2021

Published: 1 Apr 2021

Results from the ONS COVID-19 infection survey from 1 April 2021.

Published:
1 Apr 2021
Coronavirus (COVID-19): ONS Infection Survey - headline results - 1 April 2021

ONS Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey Results 1 April 2021

The COVID-19 Infection Survey aims to measure:

  • how many people test positive for COVID-19 infection at a given point in time, regardless of whether they report experiencing coronavirus symptoms
  • the average number of new infections per week over the course of the study
  • the number of people who test positive for antibodies, to indicate how many people are ever likely to have had the infection or have been vaccinated

More detailed analysis will be available in future releases.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publish estimates for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland on their website.

The underlying data displayed in the charts in this publication is available in the reference tables on the ONS website.

All results are provisional and are subject to revision.

Due to the upcoming Easter weekend, sub-regional estimates are not available in this release.

Modelled estimate of the proportion of the population in Scotland that had the coronavirus (COVID-19)

It is estimated that in the most recent week (21 to 27 March 2021), the percentage of the population in Scotland that had the coronavirus (COVID-19) was 0.32%. A 95% credible interval for this figure is 0.21% to 0.45%.

In the same week, it is estimated that at any given time 16,600 people in Scotland had COVID-19. A 95% credible interval for this figure is 11,100 to 23,400. This equates to around 1 in 320 people (95% credible interval: 1 in 480 to 1 in 220).

In Scotland, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 has likely decreased in the week ending 27 March, as shown in Figure 1.

Modelled daily estimates of the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19, and accompanying credible intervals, are represented in Figure 1 by the blue line and grey shading. The model smooths the series to understand the trend and is revised each week to incorporate new test results. Modelled daily estimates are used to calculate the official reported estimate.

Official reported estimates of the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19, are based on the modelled estimate for the midpoint of the week at the time of publication. Official reported estimates, and accompanying credible intervals, are represented in Figure 1 and Figure 2 by the point estimates (blue circles). In Figure 2, pale blue circles denote 14-day weighted estimates while the official reported weekly estimates are denoted by dark blue circles.

Figure 1: Modelled daily estimates and official reported estimates of the percentage of the population in Scotland testing positive for COVID-19 between 14 February and 27 March 2021, including 95% credible intervals (see notes 2,3,4,5,6)

This chart shows modelled daily estimates and official reported estimates of the percentage of the population in Scotland testing positive for COVID-19 between 14 February and 27 March 2021, including 95% credible intervals. The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Scotland has likely decreased in the most recent week.

Figure 2: Official reported estimates of the percentage of the population in Scotland testing positive for COVID-19 between 3 October and 27 March 2021, including 95% credible intervals (see notes 3,4,5,6)

The chart shows official reported estimates of the percentage of the population in Scotland testing positive for COVID-19 between 3 October and 27 March 2021, including 95% credible intervals. The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Scotland has likely decreased in the most recent week.

Age analysis of the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Scotland

Figure 3 shows the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 by reference age, between 14 February and 27 March 2021. These estimates are based on modelled daily estimates of the percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19 in Scotland by single year of age which are available in an accompanying dataset on the ONS website.

The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 of nursery, primary school and secondary school age (reference ages 3, 8, 13, 16) appears to have increased in the last two weeks up to 27 March. The percentage testing positive for COVID-19 in young adults remains level, and has decreased in older adults since the middle of February.

Caution should be taken in over-interpreting small movements in the latest trend.

Figure 3: Modelled daily estimates of the percentage of the population in Scotland testing positive for COVID-19, by reference age, from 14 February to 27 March 2021, including 95% credible intervals (see notes 2,4,5,6)

The chart shows modelled daily estimates of the percentage of the population in Scotland testing positive for COVID-19, by reference age, from 14 February to 27 March, including 95% credible intervals. There is a separate plot for reference ages 3, 8, 13, 16, 24, 35, 45, 55, 65 and 75 years of age. The percentage of people aged 3, 8, 13 and 16 testing positive for COVID-19 appears to have increased in the two weeks up to 27 March 2021. The percentage of young adults testing positive remains level, and the percentage of older adults testing positive has been decreasing since the middle of February 2021.

Modelled estimate of the proportion of the population testing positive for COVID-19 in each of the four nations of the UK  

In Scotland, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 has likely decreased in the week ending 27 March 2021. In England, the percentage of people testing positive has decreased in the week ending 27 March 2021. In Wales, the trend in percentage of people testing positive was uncertain in the week ending 27 March 2021. In Northern Ireland, the percentage of people testing positive showed early signs of an increase in the week ending 27 March 2021

Figure 4: Modelled daily estimates of the percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19 in each of the four nations of the UK, between 14 February and 27 March 2021 including 95% credible intervals (see notes 2,3,4,5,6)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              *Northern Ireland

The chart shows the modelled daily estimates of the percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19 in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland between 14 February and 27 March 2021, including 95% credible intervals. In this week, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Scotland has likely decreased. In England, the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) decreased. In Wales, the trend in percentage of people testing positive was uncertain. In Northern Ireland, the percentage of people testing positive showed early signs of an increase.

Table 1: Modelled estimates of the proportion of the population testing positive for COVID-19, and corresponding 95% credible intervals, between 21 and 27 March 2021 for the four nations of the UK (See notes 1,3,4,5)

Nation

Estimated percentage of population that had COVID-19

Estimated number of people who had COVID-19

Estimated ratio of people who had  COVID-19

England

0.27%

(0.24% to 0.31%)

148,100              (129,700 to 167,400)

1 in 370                  

(1 in 420 to 1 in 330)

Northern Ireland

0.45%

(0.25% to 0.70%)

8,200                    (4,600 to 12,900)

1 in 220                   

(1 in 400 to 1 in 140)

Scotland

0.32%

(0.21% to 0.45%)

16,600                  (11,100 to 23,400)

1 in 320                    

(1 in 480 to 1 in 220)

Wales

0.18%

(0.09% to 0.29%)

5,300                    (2,900 to 8,700)

1 in 570                  

(1 in 1,050 to 1 in 350)

Number of new COVID-19 infections in Scotland

ONS have recently introduced estimates of incidence of polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-positive cases using a new method based which is based on the positivity estimate. This gives the rate at which new positives occur, and subsequently become detectable, within the population. ONS previously published results for England from 13 July to 28 November 2020 using a previous method.

The new incidence method uses an estimate of the length of time for which an individual will test positive, based on modelling the time from first positive to first subsequent negative test in the survey. This estimate is used alongside the positivity model to produce an estimate. For more information on the new method of incidence please see the updated methods article on the ONS webpage.

The reference date used for the official estimates of incidence of PCR-positive cases is 10 days prior to the end of the positivity reference week (21 to 27 March). This is necessary as estimates later than this date are more likely to change as additional data is received.

In Scotland, during the week 14 to 20 March 2021, it is estimated that there were 3.46 new PCR-positive COVID-19 cases per 10,000 people per day (95% credible interval: 1.84 to 5.28). This equates to 1,800 new positive cases in Scotland per day (95% credible interval: 970 to 2,800). Incidence of new PCR positive COVID-19 cases has shown early signs of a decrease in the week up to 20 March 2021 in Scotland, although credible intervals are wide.

Modelled daily estimates of incidence rates, and accompanying credible intervals, are represented in Figure 5 by the blue line and grey shading. The model smooths the series to understand the trend and will be revised to incorporate new test results. Modelled daily estimates are used to calculate the official reported/indicative estimate.

Official reported/indicative estimates of incidence rates, are based on the modelled estimate for the midpoint of the week. Indicative estimates are denoted by pale blue circles, while the official estimates are denoted by dark blue circles, in Figure 5 and 6. Indicative estimates were produced using the new positivity-based incidence method, and are presented on the official estimates charts, but were not previously published.

Figure 5: Modelled daily estimates and official reported/ indicative estimates of incidence rates in Scotland between 14 February to 20 March 2021, including 95% credible intervals (see notes 2,4,5,6)

The chart shows modelled daily estimates and official reported/ indicative estimates of incidence rates in Scotland between 14 February to 20 March 2021, including 95% credible intervals. Incidence has shown early signs of a decrease in the week 14 to 21 March 2021 in Scotland, although credible intervals are wide.

Figure 6: Official reported/ indicative estimates of incidence rates in Scotland between 25 October 2020 to 20 March 2021, including 95% credible intervals (see notes 4,5,6)

The chart shows all official reported/ indicative estimates of incidence rates in Scotland between 25 October 2020 to 20 March 2021, including 95% credible intervals.

Estimate of the percentage of those testing positive for COVID-19 whose test results were compatible with the new UK variant

A new variant of COVID-19 was identified in the UK in mid-November 2020. The new UK variant of COVID-19 has changes in one of the three genes which coronavirus swab tests detect, known as the S-gene. This means in cases compatible with the new variant, the S-gene is no longer detected by the current test. While there are other reasons why a positive swab test may not detect the S-gene, absence of the S-gene has become a reliable indicator of the new UK variant in COVID-19. However, as the viral load decreases (for example, if someone is near the end of their recovery from the infection), the absence of the S gene is a less reliable indicator of the new UK variant.

In contrast the Brazilian and South African variants have an S-gene that is detectable with the current test and will therefore be included in the “not compatible with new variant” group of COVID-19, where the virus level is high enough to identify this. Which of these types of COVID-19 are compatible with these variants cannot be identified from the swab PCR test alone. You can read more about the new UK variant in the blog published by ONS.

The percentage testing positive compatible with the UK variant has likely levelled off in England, likely decreased in Wales and likely increased in Northern Ireland in the week ending 27 March 2021. In Scotland, the trend in the percentage testing positive compatible with the UK variant is uncertain in the week ending 27 March 2021.

Detailed analysis on the new UK variant is no longer included in the Scottish Government COVID-19 Infection Survey publication. This data will continue to be published in the accompanying reference tables on the ONS website. Trends in different variants will continue to be monitored over the coming weeks and the charts will be reintroduced into the publication if there is a variant that can be identified using survey tests that appears to be affecting the trends in the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19.

Further information

The latest estimate of the proportion of people in Scotland who would have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies was published on 30 March on the Scottish Government website and ONS website.

An article on the prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the UK was published on the ONS website on 1 April. The article includes estimates of the prevalence of self-reported "long COVID", and the duration of ongoing symptoms following confirmed coronavirus infection, using UK Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey data to 6 March 2021.

How this data can be used

The data can be used for:

  • estimating the number of current positive cases in the community, including cases where people do not report having any symptoms
  • estimating the number of new cases and change over time in positive cases

The data cannot be used for:

  • measuring the number of cases and infections in care homes, hospitals and other institutional settings
  • estimating the number of positive cases and new infections in smaller geographies, such as towns and cities
  • providing information about recovery time of those infected

Methodology

The results are based on nose and throat swabs provided by participants to the study, obtained from fieldwork which started in Scotland on 21 September 2020.

The results are for private households only, and do not apply to those in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings. The population used in this analysis relates to the community population aged two years and over.

In the latest six-week period, there were 64,498 swab tests from 30,255 people, with a total of 236 positive tests in 216 people from 181 households. In the latest two-week period, there were 14,106 swab tests from 13,392 people, with a total of 48 positive tests in 48 people from 38 households.

The Infection Survey bulletins available on the ONS website also include results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Welsh Government and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland also publish results from the COVID-19 Infection Survey for Wales and Northern Ireland respectively:

Further details on the methodology used can be found on the ONS website.

Notes

  1. Any ratios presented are rounded to the nearest 5.
  2. There is more uncertainty around estimates for the latest three reported days (as shown by the vertical dashed line), as lab results for this period are still being processed at the time of publication. Additional swab tests that become available after this publication are included in subsequent models, meaning that modelled estimates can change as additional data is included.
  3. Modelled estimates are not directly comparable with the 14-day weighted estimates provided in the accompanying dataset on the ONS website. The 14-day weighted estimates underpin the modelled estimates and are provided for context. 14-day weighted estimates are not directly comparable with the weekly modelled estimates due to the differing methodology, however they have been included in Figure 2 as they were reported as the official estimates for Scotland before the weekly modelled estimates became available.
  4. The model used to provide these estimates is a Bayesian model: these provide 95% credible intervals. A credible interval gives an indication of the uncertainty of an estimate from data analysis. 95% credible intervals are calculated so that there is a 95% probability of the true value lying in the interval.
  5. Because of the relatively small number of tests and a low number of positives in the sample, credible intervals are wide and therefore results should be interpreted with caution.
  6. The blue line and shading represent the modelled trend and credible intervals based on the latest data. The point estimates and error bars represent the official weekly estimates and their credible intervals, which are based on the modelled estimate for the midpoint of the week at the time of publication.

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