Nearly 300,000 people in the UK will take part in a major long-term study to monitor the spread of the coronavirus in the population and understand levels of immunity, the British government said 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 said.
Participants will form “a representative sample of the entire British population by age and geography,” the government said, with the first results expected in early May.
It will be chaired by the Department of Health and Social Services and the Office of National Statistics.
“This survey will help track the current spread of transmission and infection in the UK, while answering crucial questions about immunity as we continue to deepen our understanding of this new virus,” said UK Health Minister Matt Hancock said in the press release.
Participants will provide samples from self-administered nose and throat swabs and answer a few brief questions during a home visit by a qualified health worker, the statement said.
Swab tests will show whether or not the 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 added.
A total of 25,000 people will participate in the pilot phase of the survey, and it is planned to extend it to around 300,000 people over the next 12 months. said the government.
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.