News | Published April 23 2020

20,000 households invited to take part in Covid-19 study

Some 20,000 households across England will be invited to take part in a study to track the spread of coronavirus across the country.

The study is intended to build upon the current understanding of the infection levels and how people may have immunity. Those who volunteer for the study will be expected to regularly provide nose and throat swabs to confirm whether or not they have the virus. It will be used to inform the government’s lockdown strategy.

The government will listen to findings from scientific advisers later today as to whether the public should wear face masks to limit the spread of Covid-19. While no decision has been made as yet, it is believed that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies will not recommend the wearing of face masks in the general public, according to Nicholas Watt of Newsnight.

However, scientists may advise the wearing of masks or scarfs across individual’s faces as there is some proven benefit, says Watt.

The study, conducted by the Department of Health, is the most significant population study to take place in England. The Office for National Statistics will invite an initial 20,000 households for the pilot phase of the study.

Tests will take place on a weekly basis for the first five weeks, and then every month for the next year. Those who display symptoms of the virus, and those who do not will be tested. A representative sample of the UK will be taken, both in age and geography, to select the initial 20,000 households.

In 1,000 households blood samples will be taken to establish whether individuals have had the virus in the past and developed immunity to it. Samples will be taken on a monthly basis for the next 12 months.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said that: "Together, these results will help us better understand the spread of the virus to date, predict the future trajectory and inform future action we take, including crucially the development of ground-breaking tests and treatments.”

According to the chief medical officer of England, Professor Chris Whitty, there is not currently a test that Public Health England has sufficient confidence in.

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Authored by

Alice Jaspars
Culture Editor
April 23 2020

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