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expert reaction to latest stats from the ONS COVID-19 Infection Survey, UK: 7 October 2022

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


Prof Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, said:

“The ONS survey provides the most authoritative data available on levels of coronavirus infection in the general population in the UK. Overall, the latest data show that the prevalence of infection is now above 2%. Though that is considerably lower than last winter there has, at least in England, been a steady rise in recent weeks. A limitation of ONS data is that they are 2 weeks out of date when published, but there is evidence from symptoms surveys that this rise has continues. The latest data from the Health Security Agency also indicate a rise in COVID-19 activity, most notably a 45% week-on-week increase in hospital admissions. It is striking that the ONS data show the highest prevalence and the steepest rise in the over 70s, by far the most vulnerable age group, especially if unvaccinated.

“These figures are not yet alarming but they are concerning. This is the third year in a row that we have seen a rise in cases during the autumn. There is a tendency to attribute this to the start of the school year, but schools have never been the main drivers of the epidemic and school-aged children currently have neither the highest nor fastest rising prevalence of infection. More likely, the driver is the end of the summer and a general return to more indoor activities across all age groups, coupled with a waning of vaccine immunity.

“At this stage, it is difficult to know whether or not this is the beginning of a significant winter wave of infection in the UK. So it is important that the survey data continue to be monitored very closely, and that surveillance for new variants continues. The most effective step people can take to protect themselves and others is to take up the offer of booster vaccinations.

“We don’t yet have a clear picture of what ‘living with the virus’ will look like but we do know that coronavirus is not going away and will continue to be a burden on our health system for the foreseeable future. As with all respiratory viruses, we have to expect that burden to fluctuate over time and we need the capacity to cope with peaks as well as troughs.”



Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, UK: 7 October 2022



Declared interests

Prof Mark Woolhouse is author of a book on the pandemic response.

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