The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is currently working at speed to ensure that the country has the best possible information on the UK's society and economy and that the government has the information it needs to manage the UK's response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The approach that we are taking includes introducing new surveys and tapping into new data sources such as administrative data held by government and private sector information. In turn, this has allowed us to:

  • provide information to support decision-makers

  • ensure our core statistical outputs are maintained during the unprecedented disruptions caused by COVID-19

  • develop new insight and analysis to produce a wider understanding of the effect of the pandemic on the UK's society and economy

We have already published a range of analytical articles, both to provide contextual information on society prior to the pandemic, and where we have been able to show how society and the economy is responding. These are all included as part of our dedicated COVID-19 page, which provides a list of the analysis we have done to date. We are also publishing a roundup of some of our most important findings in relation to COVID-19. The Data Science Campus has also outlined how it is working to support the response to COVID-19

We understand the need for more analysis to fully understand the pandemic. We have developed an initial programme of work to provide more insight into the impact of COVID-19 over the next few months.

This work plan is under constant review to take account of the changing nature of the pandemic, should new or urgent requirements emerge, and to accommodate new data sources as they become available, so is subject to change. We will add to our workplan over time and update it regularly.

Health – understanding the transmission rate and deaths related to COVID-19

Since the end of March 2020, we have been publishing more detailed analysis in our weekly death release, to provide further insight into the number of people dying related to COVID-19, by age and setting. Our further analysis so far has also shown the differing impacts by local area and deprivation levels, ethnicity, as well as deaths within the care sector. We also began publishing provisional results from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey pilot for England.

We will:

Social impact – how people are responding to the pandemic and how society has changed

Using the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, we have been providing weekly updates on how the coronavirus has been affecting the whole population, as well as focused analysis on those with a disability, by region and in depth analysis on personal and economic well-being during this time. We have also produced initial estimates from the Time Use Survey, on how people have spent their time during lockdown. We also provided contextual analysis on where those aged over 70 years live, and the financial resilience of households when employment income drops.

We will:

Labour market – exploring how working life patterns are changing as a result of the pandemic

We have already published various articles on the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market, including self-employment, working parents, older workers and homeworking. We include a "flash estimate" of the number of employees paid through the tax system for the previous month in our labour market estimates. We also published analysis on the occupations in the UK that have the highest potential exposure to COVID-19.

We will:

  • continue to publish early indicators of employment and earnings, including data from HM Revenue and Customs Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real-Time information system, and weekly data from the Labour Force Survey – published in our monthly labour market bulletins

  • provide vacancy indicators using data from Adzuna – published every Thursday

  • develop measures of people's ability to work from home – due to be published in June or July

  • explore analysis of how workers in different industries and occupations in different parts of the country travel to and from work – due to be published in June

  • provide analysis from our Labour Force Survey and Labour Market Survey to demonstrate how the labour market is responding to the pandemic – due to be published from June

  • explore analysis of the impacts to individuals' human capital and skill demand throughout and after lockdown – due to be published from the summer onwards

  • provide analysis of underemployment across different sectors – due to be published in the October Economic Review

Economic impact – how the economy is reacting to the pandemic

We have published additional analysis of how the pandemic has affected the economy alongside our usual economic statistics, such as the impact on output in the economy, in the Retail sales bulletin, in our public sector finances bulletin, and in the Prices economic commentary for consumer prices in April. We have also published results of the new fortnightly Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS), as well as using insights from these data for dedicated articles on furloughing and international trade.

We will:

  • continue to publish weekly estimates from the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS) to show how businesses are reacting to the crisis – published every Thursday; with more detailed results published every other Thursday

  • provide analysis of our regular short-term economic surveys and BICS to understand the differential impacts of the pandemic on industries and businesses, with additional commentary and insight to be published at least monthly in the usual bulletins

  • work with Companies House to develop indicators of business births and deaths, to understand the longer-term economic cost – due to be published in the coming weeks

  • provide analysis of the impact of the pandemic on businesses over time, using responses from successive waves of BICS – due to be published in June, with further analysis in later months

  • look at the potential impact on regions and local areas based on industrial composition and workforce data – due to be published in July

  • examine the impact on international trade, through analysis of our regular trade data and the fortnightly Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey (BICS) – due to be published in the July Economic Review

  • continue to explore the effect of changing spending patterns, and unavailability of some products, on inflation – due to be published in future prices releases

  • produce articles on the impacts of coronavirus on the economy to be included in the Economic Review – due to be published in the July and October editions

  • explore the impact of the pandemic on productivity and business investment through a range of indicators, methods and analysis – due to be published in the autumn

Sources and surveys

Each release will use the best sources available. We hope that by using multiple sources in our analysis, we can provide new insights during this difficult time. We have stood up a number of surveys to help us collect this information at a faster pace than normal.

Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey

The Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey (BICS) is a fortnightly survey of over 20,000 businesses. It includes questions on turnover, workforce, use of government support schemes, international trade, prices and more; both fortnightly outturns, and fortnightly expectations. Microdata is now available in the SRS.

Opinions and Lifestyle Survey

The Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) is a weekly survey of around 2,000 to 2,500 individuals in Great Britain. It includes questions on opinions and attitudes towards coronavirus, behaviours including contact, transport, and hygiene, information on home-schooling, and a range of indicators on well-being. Questions are updated regularly as we move through the pandemic. Microdata is now available in the SRS.

Labour Market Survey

The Labour Market Survey (LMS) is an online weekly survey, alongside the Labour Force Survey. It includes core questions about employment activities and related information as well as questions on absence from workplace because of COVID-19. It will be available weekly in due course, with the reference period from the start of April.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey

The COVID-19 Infection Survey provides estimates of prevalence of COVID-19 in the community, currently broken down by age, sex, and whether in patient-facing role, with potential for further breakdowns in the future.

Time Use Survey

TheTime Use Survey is a detailed survey asking respondents for what they were doing in each 30-minute part of the day. It provides a wealth of valuable data on use of time during lockdown, including working from home, informal caring, social interactions, online activity, among other things.

Crime Survey

The Crime Survey will be conducted as a telephone survey, with a coronavirus module. This is because of the suspension of face to face interviews for the Crime Survey in England and Wales (CSEW).

Alongside these available sources, the disruption of coronavirus has resulted in issues for us collecting some of our usual statistics. We have suspended all face-to-face interviewing in our social surveys and where possible will be moving to telephone-based interviewing or using online surveys, which has impacts across some of our existing series.

The suspension of the International Passenger Survey (IPS) has an impact across our migration, trade, and overseas travel and tourism statistics. For our migration statistics, we are planning to use administrative data to deliver new measures of migration from 2020 onwards. The August 2020 Migration Statistics Quarterly Report will be the last set of migration statistics based on IPS data.  More information is available in Understanding international migration in a rapidly changing world. For trade and tourism, we have published a statement explaining the impact of the suspension on these statistics. 

For our economic statistics, collecting information with many shops closed, businesses ceasing to trade and no interviewers to knock on doors causes a measurement challenge during the pandemic. To address these collection issues, we have published three new articles looking at the effects of COVID-19 on National AccountsPrices and our Labour market statistics.

Iain Bell, Deputy National Statistician for Population and Public Policy Statistics
Jonathan Athow, Deputy National Statistician for Economic Statistics