Publication - Statistics

Coronavirus (COVID-19): ONS Infection Survey results – characteristics data – socially distanced and physical contacts analysis – 20 May 2021

Published: 20 May 2021

Characteristics data from the ONS COVID-19 infection survey published on 20 May 2021.

Published:
20 May 2021
Coronavirus (COVID-19): ONS Infection Survey results – characteristics data – socially distanced and physical contacts analysis – 20 May 2021

This article looks at how often individuals are reporting social contact with other people outside their own household, either socially distanced or physical contact. As part of survey visits, individuals were asked how many people outside their household, aged 17 years and under, 18 to 69 years, and 70 years and over, they had had contact with up to seven days prior to each study visit.

Contact refers to either of the following:

  • socially distanced contact – direct contact with social distancing only
  • physical contact – physical contact, such as a handshake or personal care, including wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)

Data on socially distanced and physical contacts for Scotland was previously presented on 22 April 2021. In this article, fortnightly estimates are available for the time period between 21 September 2020 to 2 May 2021.

Estimates have been weighted to be representative of the total population in Scotland. Analysis includes all people taking part in the survey. The survey only includes those in the community population. Contact analysis is presented for school-age children (age two years to school year S4) and adults (school year S5 and above).

The number of contacts is reported in the following groups:

  • 0 (no reported contacts)
  • 1 to 5 (reported contacts)
  • 6 to 10 (reported contacts)
  • 11 to 20 (reported contacts)
  • 21 or more (reported contacts)

Analysis on reported symptoms and Covid-19 positivity by patient-facing and non-patient facing job roles is available at the UK level, and can be accessed on the ONS website.

Socially distanced contacts – school-age children

The proportion of school-age children reporting each category of number of socially distanced contacts is shown in Figure 1.

Socially distanced contacts school age children had with all age groups has been increasing since early March 2021, corresponding to the phased reopening of schools, with a dip in contacts occurring in early to mid-April 2021, corresponding to the Easter school holidays.

There is a consistent trend over time, with school-age children reporting more socially distanced contacts with those aged under 18 years than with people aged 18 to 69 years or those aged 70 years and over.

In Figures 1 to 4 each bar represents one two-week period, denoted by the end date of that period.  For example, 2 May 2021 denotes the estimate relating to 19 April to 2 May 2021.

Figure 1: Proportion of school-age children by number of socially distanced contacts with different age groups, from 21 September 2020 to 2 May 2021

Socially distanced contacts – adults

The proportion of adults reporting each category of number of socially distanced contacts is shown in Figure 2.

Socially distanced contacts adults had with all age groups has been increasing since early March 2021.

There is a consistent trend over time, with adults reporting more socially distanced contacts with those aged 18 to 69 years than with people under the age of 18 years or 70 years and over.

Figure 2: Proportion of adults by number of socially distanced contacts with different age groups, from 21 September 2020 to 2 May 2021

Physical contacts – school-age children

Among school-age children, trends in physical contacts are very similar to trends in socially distanced contacts across Scotland, with increases in contacts through March and April 2021. As with socially distanced contacts, a decrease in physical contacts among school-age children was seen in early-mid April, corresponding with Easter school holidays.

There is a consistent trend over time, with school-age children reporting to have more physical contacts with those aged under 18 years than with those aged 18 to 69 years or 70 years and over

Figure 3: Proportion of school-age children by number of physical contacts with different age groups, from 21 September 2020 to 2 May 2021

Physical contacts – adults

Among adults, trends in physical contacts over time are very similar to socially distanced contact trends across Scotland, with increases in contacts through March and April 2021, although the number of physical contacts was lower.

Adults in Scotland report to have had more physical contacts with those aged 18 to 69 years than with people under the age of 18 years and those 70 years and over.

Figure 4: Proportion of adults by number of physical contacts with different age groups, from 21 September 2020 to 2 May 2021

Methodology and further information

  1. The population used in the headline analysis relates to the community population (private households) aged two years and over, and does not include people in hospital, care homes or other institutional settings, where rates of COVID-19 infection are likely to be different.
  2. This analysis includes all study participants between 21 September 2020 and 2 May 2021, regardless of whether they tested positive or negative for COVID-19.
  3. The dates shown in the above figures refer to the last date in each fortnight for which estimates are produced.

The full article was published by the Office for National Statistics on 20 May 2021, which includes data for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The full article also includes analysis on reported symptoms and Covid-19 positivity by patient-facing and non-patient facing job roles is available at the UK level, and can be accessed on the ONS website.

More information about the COVID-19 Infection Survey in Scotland can be found on the information page on the Scottish Government website, and previous COVID-19 Infection Survey data for Scotland can be found in this collection.