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expert reaction to latest ONS COVID-19 Infection Survey, UK: 16 December 2022

The Office for National Statistics (ONS), have released the latest data from their COVID-19 Infection Survey.


Prof Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics, The Open University, said:

“It’s not good news that this week’s release from the ONS Coronavirus Infection Survey shows an increased estimate of the rate of testing positive in England again – that’s the third successive week.  ONS are now saying that the trend is increasing in Scotland and in Wales too.  They regard the recent trend in Northern Ireland as ‘uncertain’.  The latest figures are for the week ending 5 December (3 December in Northern Ireland).

“Overall I’m still not hugely concerned about these trends, though of course I’d rather the rates were falling.  It’s not at all surprising that the numbers are on the increase – Covid certainly never completely went away, it’s getting a lot colder and people are more likely to be indoors, and infection rates for many airborne diseases increase at this time of year.  And, so far, the increases are still not really rapid, and the levels of infection are not yet particularly high in comparison to where we’ve been during the pandemic.  But it’s important to keep looking carefully at the data.  Past experience has shown how fast infection rates can rise sometimes, and I don’t think we can say that that that couldn’t happen again.

“Estimated rates of testing positive are, however, still lower than they have been for most of the previous year.  The current estimated rate in England is lower than it was for 38 of the previous 52 weeks, and the position is similar for the other three UK countries.  (Lower than 41 of the past 52 weeks in Scotland, than 39 of 52 in Wales, and than 37 of 52 in Northern Ireland.)

“While I’ll certainly continue to keep a close eye on the data from this survey, to be honest, I’m currently rather more concerned about flu, or more particularly about what might happen if there’s a large wave of flu in the next few weeks that coincides with even quite a small increase in Covid infection.  Hospitalisations for flu have been increasing fairly substantially in England, and it’s not as if the NHS is in good shape to deal with pressures.”



All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:



Declared interests

Prof Kevin McConway: “I am a Trustee of the SMC and a member of its Advisory Committee.  My quote above is in my capacity as an independent professional statistician.”

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