The UKSHA has published more than 100 weekly national flu and COVID-19 surveillance reports throughout the epidemic.
These reports provide an important picture of the epidemic with details of confirmed cases, outbreaks, hospital admissions and deaths – where it can be divided by factors including age, gender, region and setting.
As we learn to live with COVID-19, and as described in the government’s Living With COVID-19 plan, the virus will now be managed in the same way as other respiratory infections, such as the flu. This means that we will test, monitor and report the virus in a way that is close to what we do for other infectious diseases.
The change in the way we test and support COVID-19 means that ‘Pillar 2’ testing data, which includes community LFD and PCR tests, both noticeable and asymptomatic, will no longer provide the same amount of data; So it will not be the main component of our weekly report, which will be dominated by the results of the ‘Pillar 1’ test from the NHS.
Of course, some high-risk groups, such as NHS hospital patients, are eligible for COVID-19 antiviral and other treatments, and tests are underway for NHS and adult social care workers.
This data formed the basis of the ‘Pillar 1’ experiment across epidemics. Focusing on the results of these tests will enable us to continue monitoring and protecting people at risk of hospitalization, serious illness and potential death. Pillar 1 data will continue to support genomic surveillance that helps track the evolution of viruses.
However, community testing data will continue to be published alongside this core data and will provide a useful broad context when we observe the overall impact of COVID-19.
The RCGP Sentinel Swabbing Scheme will continue to provide an important indicator for COVID-19 cases and community positivity. By sampling more than 200 GP exercises, the scheme provides a positive rate that monitors whether the proportion of people infected with COVID-19 has increased by week, by age, and by region.
Real-time syndrome surveillance is used daily by health professionals to detect variable trends that indicate high levels of illness in the population. This surveillance method collects and analyzes anonymous health data across England – tracking the symptoms presented by patients instead of laboratory tests for specific infections.
All of our surveillance methods have been chosen so that long-term data can be measured regularly and consistently. No single source of data tells the whole story of disease activity, nor can any system provide an exact figure of exactly how many people may have a disease like Kovid-19.
But as we learn to live with COVID-19, our surveillance will continue to provide a strong understanding of COVID-19 activity and provide valuable insights for informing public health work and health services.