During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has been working to ensure that the UK has the best information about our society and economy and that the government has the information it needs to manage its response.

The need to limit social contact meant we had to change the way we worked. To keep the public and our staff safe, we introduced different ways of collecting data. We also began gathering new information to help us understand how the coronavirus is affecting our daily lives. The information we produce about the impact of the coronavirus can be found on the dedicated page on our website.

As the pandemic begins to ease, we are looking to resume some of our past ways of working, whilst maintaining measures to ensure the safety of the public and our staff.

Gathering information from people, families and households

Our largest household study gathers information on employment, unemployment and reasons why people are either not working or not looking for work. In July 2020, we added questions about the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on people's employment and working patterns, which are continuing to provide key data on the pandemic's ongoing effect on the country. We have continued to add pandemic related questions throughout 2021.

At the onset of the pandemic, we stopped all face-to-face interviewing in people's homes. Where possible, we have asked some people to take part online, and have invited others to participate by phone. So that we can do this, we visit some addresses to collect the contact details we need to carry out our studies safely. As restrictions begin to ease, we are now exploring reintroducing face-to-face data collection in a way that is safe for the public and our interviewers and complies with all government guidelines. If you are offered a face-to-face interview, but are not comfortable with this, you are free to take part in the survey over the phone or online (where possible) instead.

We will continue to survey the public to find out about issues relating to the coronavirus, such as public understanding of the pandemic, changes in behaviour (including homeworking and visiting friends and relatives) and the impact on finances.

The International Passenger Survey

In addition to our household studies, we also conduct the International Passenger survey (IPS) at ports, airports and stations. This study gathers information about travel and tourism, and now also collects data about the experiences and attitudes of passengers who are travelling during the pandemic. We collect information about their knowledge of and compliance with travel restrictions and how safe they feel whilst travelling.

This study was reinstated in December 2020 after being suspended since March 2020 because of the restrictions associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We have put in place extensive measures to ensure that interviewing can be conducted safely such as wearing face coverings, maintaining social distance and working in smaller teams in line with guidance from the appropriate health authorities and continue to monitor the measures.

COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS)

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is also jointly leading a major government study to track the presence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the population. The household study not only provides essential information about the current rate of infection, it helps identify how many people are likely to have developed antibodies to the virus. This information is vital to help us understand how our protection from getting new infections changes after vaccination or infection, which allows the government to work out if and when our protection levels fall to a point where booster vaccinations may be needed. It also allows us to identify whether there are particular groups, like older individuals or those with long-term health conditions, who may need them more quickly. More details on the CIS can be found on our website.

Collecting data from businesses

Our business surveys were already conducted online or by post, so they have been continuing as usual. We established an online survey specifically about the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on businesses, which covers changes in employment, turnover and business expectations. The data can be found here.

We are still not visiting shops and businesses in person to gather information on consumer prices, which are used in our inflation statistics. We are continuing to collect these prices remotely from shops and businesses via the internet and telephone.

Further developments

This page shows the work we are doing to ensure we can continue to provide the vital information needed to monitor the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19). We will update this page to explain further developments.