Up to 300,000 people in the UK will take part in a major long-term study to track the spread of coronavirus in the population, and understand the levels of immunity, the British government announced in a statement on Wednesday.
The study will examine how many people are infected in the UK, and how many have developed antibodies to the virus, the statement says.
Participants will form “a representative sample of the entire UK population by age and geography” the government said, with initial findings expected in early May.
It will be led by the Department for Health and Social Care and the Office for National Statistics.
“This survey will help to track the current extent of transmission and infection in the UK, while also answering crucial questions about immunity as we continue to build up our understanding of this new virus,” UK health minister Matt Hancock said in the statement.
Participants will provide samples taken from self-administered nose and throat swabs, and answer a few short questions during a home visit by a trained health worker, according to the statement.
The swab tests will show whether or not participants currently have the virus. They will be asked to take further tests every week for the first five weeks, then every month for 12 months, the statement adds.
In total, 25,000 people will take part in the pilot phase of the survey, with plans to extend it to up to around 300,000 over the next 12 months. the government said.
The pilot phase will take place in England only, but will be extended to other parts of the UK “in due course” the statement said.