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Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections


In the latest week (ending 9 October 2021), the estimated percentage of the community population that had COVID-19 was:

  • 1.63% in England (1 in 60 people) 

  • 2.18% in Wales (1 in 45 people) 

  • 0.82% in Northern Ireland (1 in 120 people) 

  • 1.26% in Scotland (1 in 80 people)

More than 1 in 10 study participants reported experiencing long COVID 12 weeks after infection (26 April 2020 to 1 August 2021).

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Infections

Infection trends varied across the four UK nations

Estimated percentage of the population testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) on nose and throat swabs from 7 August 2020 to 9 October 2021

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In the week ending 9 October 2021, the percentage of people testing positive increased in England (1.63%) and Wales (2.18%). The trend was uncertain in Northern Ireland (0.82%) and decreased in Scotland (1.26%).

Last updated: 15/10/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey

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Reinfections were more common during the period when the Delta variant of COVID-19 was the dominant strain

  • The number of reinfections was low overall in the UK between July 2020 and September 2021. 

  • Participants who had a lower viral load in their initial infection were at a higher risk of reinfection compared with participants who had a higher viral load at their initial infection. 

  • Risk of reinfection was higher from 17 May 2021 compared with the period before; this reflects a higher risk of reinfection during the period when the Delta variant of COVID-19 was the dominant strain, compared with the period when the Alpha variant of COVID-19 was dominant.

Last updated: 06/10/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, characteristics of people testing positive for COVID-19

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Infections by region

The percentage of people testing positive increased in most regions of England

Estimated percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19 on nose and throat swabs, daily, by region from 29 August to 9 October 2021, England

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In the five weeks leading up to 9 October 2021, the percentage of people testing positive continued to fluctuate across English regions. In the week ending 9 October 2021, the positivity rate increased in all regions except the North East, East Midlands and London where the trend was uncertain.

Caution should be taken in over-interpreting any small changes in the latest trend.

Last updated: 15/10/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey

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The percentage testing positive varies across sub-regions of the UK

Estimated percentage of the population testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) on nose and throat swabs by sub-regional geography, UK, 3 to 9 October 2021

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The percentage testing positive for COVID-19 varies across sub-regions of the UK. To see local infection rates select an area on the interactive map.

Last updated: 15/10/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey

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Infections by age

The positivity rate was highest in secondary school pupils

Estimated percentage of the population testing positive for COVID-19 on nose and throat swabs, daily, by age group from, 29 August to 9 October 2021, England

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The percentage of people testing positive continued to fluctuate across age groups in the week ending 9 October 2021. The positivity rate increased in secondary school-age children (school Years 7 to 11), those aged 50 to 69 years and those aged 70 years and over. There were early signs of an increase for those in school Year 12 to aged 24 years. The trend was uncertain in all other age groups in the latest week.

The percentage testing positive was highest in young people at secondary school, with 8.10% testing positive in the latest week (reference day 6 October 2021).

Last updated: 15/10/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey

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Long COVID

An estimated 1.1 million people in the UK were experiencing self-reported long COVID

  • An estimated 1.1 million people in private households (1.7% of the population) were experiencing self-reported long COVID as of 5 September 2021

  • Of those reporting long COVID symptoms, almost 4 in 10 (37%) were experiencing these symptoms over a year after the first (suspected) infection.

  • Symptoms adversely affected the day-to-day activities of around two-thirds (65%) of those with self-reported long COVID.

  • Fatigue (56%), shortness of breath (40%), loss of smell (32%) and difficulty concentrating (31%) were the most common long COVID symptoms experienced.

  • Self-reported long COVID was more common among those aged 35 to 69 years, females, people living in the most deprived areas, those working in health or social care, and those with another health condition or disability.

  • Compared with August 2021, self-reported long COVID was higher among young adults aged 17 to 24 years and people working in the hospitality sector.

Last updated: 07/10/2021

Read more about this in: Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the UK: 7 October 2021

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More than 1 in 10 study participants reported experiencing long COVID 12 weeks after infection

Estimated percentage of study participants with self-reported long COVID with time from infection, UK: 26 April 2020 to 1 August 2021

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Among Coronavirus Infection Survey (CIS) participants who tested positive for COVID-19, 14.1% were estimated to be experiencing self-reported long COVID of any severity 4 weeks after infection, falling to 11.7% at 12 weeks. The estimated percentage experiencing self-reported long COVID resulting in limitation to day-to-day activities was lower, at 9.3% at 4 weeks after infection and 7.5% at 12 weeks.

The percentage of participants estimated to be experiencing self-reported long COVID 4 or 12 weeks after infection was highest in adults aged 50 to 69 years (19.1% and 15.7% respectively) and lowest in children aged 2 to 11 years (1.9% and 1.7% respectively).

Note that experimental estimates of the prevalence of symptoms that remain 12 weeks after COVID-19 infection range from 3.0% to 11.7%, depending on the approach used. The analysis described here focuses on one of the three approaches investigated, based on self-classification of long COVID. Read our technical article for more on the other approaches.

Last updated: 16/09/2021

Read more about this in: Technical article: Updated estimates of the prevalence of post-acute symptoms among people with coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK, 26 April 2020 to 1 August 2021

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Around a third of infected staff said their symptoms lasted over four weeks

Percentage of staff and secondary pupils reporting ongoing symptoms more than 4 weeks after COVID-19 infection, England, 2 to 26 July 2021

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Just over a third of staff (35.7%) and over one in ten (12.3%) secondary school pupils in England who said they had a confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection reported experiencing ongoing symptoms for more than four weeks.

A similar proportion of those with a suspected COVID-19 infection, 34.2% of staff and 12.7% of secondary school pupils, also reported experiencing ongoing symptoms for more than four weeks.

Among those who reported experiencing ongoing symptoms, the most common was “weakness/tiredness”, reported by 59.6% of previously infected staff and 46.3% of pupils. The next most common symptom for staff was “shortness of breath” (41.8%) but this was less common among pupils (20.4%).

Last updated: 28/09/2021

Read more about this in COVID-19 Schools Infection Survey, England : Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in school pupils and staff

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Approximately half of staff (51.4%) and secondary school pupils (49.1%) who experienced ongoing symptoms more than four weeks since their COVID-19 infection reported that their ability to carry out general day-to-day activities reduced a little. Ability to carry out day-to-day activities reducing a lot was reported by 15.5% of staff and 9.4% of secondary school pupils.

Around one-in-ten staff (10.4%) experiencing ongoing symptoms reported that their ability to carry out activities at work had reduced either by a lot, by about half or they were unable to work because of ongoing symptoms more than four weeks after COVID-19 infection. Half of secondary school pupils (50.0%) reported that they attended all of school as normal despite experiencing ongoing symptoms more than four weeks after COVID-19 infection.

Last updated: 28/09/2021

Read more about this in COVID-19 Schools Infection Survey, England : Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in school pupils and staff

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Infections by other characteristics

People in the UK living in a household of three or more occupants were more likely to test positive for COVID-19

Analysis of results from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey (29 August to 11 September 2021) showed that people were more likely to test positive if they:

  • live in a household of three or more occupants 

  • never wear a face covering in enclosed spaces 

  • have socially distanced contact with 11 or more people aged 18 to 69 years outside the home 

  • are in a younger age group 

  • live in more deprived areas 

  • are unvaccinated 

Last updated: 27/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, analysis of populations in the UK by risk of testing positive for COVID-19: September 2021

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COVID-19 case rates varied by socio-demographic characteristics

  • Throughout the pandemic (1 September 2020 to 25 July 2021), COVID-19 case rates were highest among people living in the most deprived areas and in urban areas. 

  • In the second wave (1 September 2020 to 22 May 2021), case rates were higher among people born outside of the UK, but in the third wave (23 May to 25 July 2021) rates were higher among those born in the UK. 

  • Case rates varied by religious affiliation, with people identifying as Muslim or Sikh having the highest rates in the second wave, whereas the Christian group had the highest rates in the third wave. 

  • During the second wave, case rates were lowest among people where the household reference person was in a higher managerial occupation, however in the third wave rates were lowest among people where the household reference person had never worked or was long-term unemployed.   

  • Overall, case rates were lower among disabled people compared with non-disabled people. 

Last updated: 20/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) case rates by socio-demographic characteristics, England: 1 September 2020 to 25 July 2021

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COVID-19 case rates were highest among Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups in the second wave

Age-standardised COVID-19 case rates by ethnic group, 1 September 2020 to 25 July 2021, England

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COVID-19 case rates were highest among Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups during the second wave (1 September 2020 to 22 May 2021), but in the third wave (23 May 2021 – 25 July 2021) the highest rate was seen among the White British group. Case rates were lowest in the Chinese group in both waves of the pandemic.

A COVID-19 case is defined as a person who had at least one positive COVID-19 test in a given time period. Rates in this analysis are age-standardised case rates per 100,000 person-weeks.

Last updated: 20/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) case rates by socio-demographic characteristics, England: 1 September 2020 to 25 July 2021

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Symptoms

Over half of people testing positive for COVID-19 reported symptoms in August 2021

Unweighted percentage of people with symptoms, including only those who have strong positive tests (Ct less than 30) by month, UK, 1 December 2020 to 31 August 2021

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In the UK, 58% of people testing positive for COVID-19 reported symptoms in August 2021. Symptoms reported were more likely to be "classic" symptoms than gastrointestinal or loss of taste or smell only. The prevalence of “classic”, “loss of taste or smell” and any symptoms was generally lower between March and May 2021 compared with other months. This is consistent with lower average viral load between March and May 2021. The most commonly reported symptoms continue to be cough, fatigue and headache.

Last updated: 22/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, characteristics of people testing positive for COVID-19

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Further information


The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey (CIS) and REACT study both track COVID-19 infections in the community, excluding people in hospitals, care homes and other institutional settings. They test randomly selected individuals that might or might not be experiencing symptoms. Their positivity rates are modelled estimates adjusted to represent the population. NHS Test and Trace data refer to people tested because of specific reasons. These might include people experiencing symptoms, being in contact with a known case or employer referral. NHS Test and Trace data includes new cases in the community, hospitals and care homes.

To find out more about infections data from different sources visit our more information page.

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Contact

Latest insights team
infection.survey.analysis@ons.gov.uk