COVID-19 Infection Trends in the UK: Variants and Long COVID Data Revealed

In the week ending 13 March 2023, COVID-19 infections increased in England, while trends in Wales and Scotland remained uncertain. In Northern Ireland, infection trends were uncertain in the week ending 7 March 2023. The estimated percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in private households was 2.66% in England, 2.41% in Wales, 1.42% in Northern Ireland, and 2.59% in Scotland.

Moreover, as of 5 March 2023, an estimated 1.9 million people in the UK living in private households reported experiencing long COVID (2.9% of the population). Of those, around 92% had their first COVID-19 infection at least 12 weeks prior, and 69% reported experiencing long COVID symptoms for at least one year. Fatigue was the most common long COVID symptom (72% of those affected), followed by difficulty concentrating (51%), muscle ache (49%), and shortness of breath (48%).

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

In terms of COVID-19 positivity rates, the Omicron variant periods had the highest estimated percentages of people infected, with 46.5% during the BA.4 or BA.5 period (7 June to 11 November 2022).

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Furthermore, most reinfections occurred during the period when the Omicron variants were dominant, accounting for 93.9% of all identified second infections. The Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants were responsible for nearly half (48.2%) of all identified second infections.

It’s important to note that the data were collected from the Coronavirus Infection Survey (CIS), which estimates infections in the community population, excluding institutional settings.

As the UK Health Security Agency confirms its surveillance approach, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) plans to continue gathering valuable insights into COVID-19, long COVID, and respiratory infections, with further details to be announced later. The study expresses gratitude to all participants for their continued support in advancing COVID-19 research.

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