Publication - Statistics

Coronavirus (COVID-19): ONS Infection Survey - headline results - 7 May 2021

Published: 7 May 2021

Results from the ONS COVID-19 infection survey from 7 May 2021.

Published:
7 May 2021
Coronavirus (COVID-19): ONS Infection Survey - headline results - 7 May 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

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 low positivity rates, ONS are no longer providing sub-regional positivity estimates for the four UK countries. As a result, sub-regional estimates of positivity are not available for this publication.

Due to low positivity rates, ONS are reviewing whether age over time analysis by single year of age for the four UK countries can continue to be provided. As a result, age analysis is not available for this publication.

Main Points

In the week 26 April to 2 May 2021, the estimated percentage of the community population (private households) testing positive for COVID-19 in Scotland was 0.13% (95% credible interval: 0.07% to 0.22%). The percentage of people testing positive in the community has continued to decrease in the most recent week.

This equates to an estimated 6,900 people in the community population in Scotland that had COVID-19 at any given time (95% credible interval: 3,600 to 11,600), or around 1 in 760 people (95% credible interval: 1 in 1,480 to 1 in 450).

In the week 26 April to 2 May 2021, estimates for the other nations of the UK are as follows:

  • In England, the percentage of people testing positive in the community population has continued to decrease in the most recent week to 0.08% (95% credible interval: 0.07% to 0.10%)
  • In Wales, the percentage of people testing positive in the community population has decreased in the most recent two weeks to 0.05% (95% credible interval: 0.01% to 0.11%)
  • In Northern Ireland, the percentage of people testing positive in the community population has remained level in the most recent two weeks at 0.13% (95% credible interval: 0.05% to 0.27%).

In the week 19 to 25 April 2021 it is estimated that there were 500 new positive cases per day in the community population in Scotland (95% credible interval: 120 to 1,000). The trend in the incidence rate is uncertain in the week leading up to 25 April.

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

It is estimated that in the most recent week (26 April to 2 May 2021), the percentage of the community population (private households) in Scotland that had the coronavirus (COVID-19) was 0.13%. A 95% credible interval for this figure is 0.07% to 0.22%.

In the same week, it is estimated that at any given time 6,900 people in the community population had COVID-19. A 95% credible interval for this figure is 3,600 to 11,600. This equates to around 1 in 760 people (95% credible interval: 1 in 1,480 to 1 in 450).

In Scotland, the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in the community population has continued to decrease in the most recent week, 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 most recent 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 community population in Scotland testing positive for COVID-19 between 22 March and 2 May 2021, including 95% credible intervals (see notes 2,3,4,5,6)

Figure 2 shows the trend in the official weekly reported estimates of the percentage of the community population testing positive for COVID-19 between 3 October 2020 and 2 May 2021. As shown in Figure 2, official reported estimates of positivity have decreased since mid-March. All official reported estimates of positivity displayed in this chart are available in the accompanying dataset on the ONS website.

Figure 2: Official reported estimates of the percentage of the community population in Scotland testing positive for COVID-19 between 3 October 2020 and 2 May 2021, including 95% credible intervals (see notes 3,4,5,6)

Modelled estimate of the proportion of the community 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 in the community population has continued to decrease in the most recent week, ending 2 May 2021. In England, the percentage of people testing positive in the community population has also continued to decrease in the most recent week. In Northern Ireland, the percentage of people testing positive in the community population has remained level in the most recent two weeks. In Wales, the percentage of people testing positive in the community population has decreased in the most recent two weeks.

Figure 3: Modelled daily estimates of the percentage of the community population testing positive for COVID-19 in each of the four nations of the UK, between 22 March and 2 May 2021, including 95% credible intervals (see notes 2,3,4,5,6)

*Northern Ireland

Table 1: Modelled estimates of the proportion of the community population testing positive for COVID-19, and corresponding 95% credible intervals, between 26 April and 2 May 2021 for the four nations of the UK (See notes 1,3,4,5)

Nation

Estimated percentage of people that had COVID-19

Estimated number of people who had COVID-19

Estimated ratio of people who had  COVID-19

England

0.08%
(0.07% to 0.10%)

46,100
(36,300 to 56,900)

1 in 1,180
(1 in 1,500 to 1 in 960)

Northern Ireland

0.13%
(0.05% to 0.27%)

2,400
(900 to 5,000)

1 in 750
(1 in 2,160 to 1 in 370)

Scotland

0.13%
(0.07% to 0.22%)

6,900
(3,600 to 11,600)

1 in 760
(1 in 1,480 to 1 in 450)

Wales

0.05%
(0.01% to 0.11%)

1,500
(400 to 3,400)

1 in 2,070
(1 in 7,540 to 1 in 890)

Number of new COVID-19 infections in Scotland

ONS continue to present 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.

The 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 22 April 2021, 10 days prior to the end of the positivity reference week (26 April to 2 May). This is necessary as estimates later than this date are more likely to change as additional data is received.

In Scotland, during the week 19 to 25 April 2021, it is estimated that there were 0.94 new PCR-positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases per 10,000 people per day (95% credible interval: 0.22 to 1.90). This equates to 500 new positive cases in the community population in Scotland in Scotland per day (95% credible interval: 120 to 1,000). The trend in the incidence rate is uncertain in the week leading up to 25 April 2021.

Modelled daily estimates of incidence rates, and accompanying credible intervals, are represented in Figure 4 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 4 and 5. 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 4: Modelled daily estimates and official reported/indicative estimates of incidence rates in Scotland between 22 March and 25 April 2021, including 95% credible intervals (see notes 2,4,5,6)

Figure 5 shows the trend in the weekly estimates of incidence rates of COVID-19 between 25 October 2020 and 25 April 2021. As shown in Figure 6, estimates of incidence rates have generally decreased since mid-March, and appear to have remained level in recent weeks, although the trend in the most recent week is uncertain. All official reported estimates of incidence rates displayed in this chart are available in the accompanying dataset on the ONS website.

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

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 UK variant (B.1.1.7) 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 UK variant, the S-gene is not detected by the current test. Other variants, including B.1.525 (first identified in Nigeria), may also have this same pattern of gene positivity. At present these are rare in the UK so we continue to describe this group as compatible with the UK variant, but ONS will continue to keep this under review.

When there is a high viral load (for example, when a person is most infectious) absence of the S-gene in combination with the presence of the other two genes (ORF1ab and N genes) is a reliable indicator of the 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 UK variant.

In contrast the South African (B.1.351) and Brazilian (P.1 and P.2) 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 UK variant in the blog published by ONS.

The trend in the percentage of people in the community population testing positive that are compatible with the UK variant was uncertain in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the week ending 2 May 2021.

Detailed analysis on the 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

An article on the symptom profile of strong positive cases in the UK was published on the ONS website on 5 May 2021. The article includes estimates of the percentage of people testing positive that reported symptoms and the likelihood of reporting specific symptoms by nation. Analysis for Scotland was published on the Scottish Government website. The article on the ONS website also includes analysis on the likelihood of testing positive for COVID-19 by work location, mode of travel to work and reported ability to socially distance in the workplace for the UK.

The latest estimate of the proportion of community population aged 16 and over in Scotland who would have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies was published on 28 April 2021 on the Scottish Government website and ONS website.

An article on how often individuals are reporting social contact with other people outside their own household, either socially distanced or physical contact was published on 22 April 2021 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 2021. 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 49,674 swab tests from 30,227 people, with a total of 112 positive tests in 104 people from 81 households. In the latest two-week period, there were 13,522 swab tests from 12,677 people, with a total of 18 positive tests in 16 people from 13 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 10.
  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.