The Covid-19 Infection Survey is being extended to Northern Ireland.
It has been running in England and Wales where 195,000 swab tests have been carried out with the aim of building up a detailed picture of coronavirus infection rates.
Initially 500 households in Northern Ireland are being contacted to take part in this new phase, with a further 500 households added each week as the survey is developed.
The @ONS #COVID19 Infection Survey is being extended to include Northern Ireland for the first time following a successful launch of the study in England and Wales. Read more in our press release with @healthdpt. https://t.co/HjNVXgoHAH— ONS Focus (@ONSfocus) July 27, 2020
Participants provide samples taken from self-administered nose and throat swabs and answer a few short questions during a home visit by a trained study worker.
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 Office for National Statistics (ONS) will work in partnership with the Department of Health in Northern Ireland and the University of Oxford to reach participants and test samples.
Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the move.
“The research will complement studies already under way into antibody seroprevalence in different population groups,” he said.
“The more we know and understand about Covid-19, the better equipped we will be to deal with it.
“It is particularly important that we build up our knowledge on the spread of the virus within our population.
“I would strongly encourage anyone who receives an invitation to take part in the survey to accept.”
More than 195,000 swab tests have been carried out in total over the duration of the study in England and Wales, and over 6,000 antibody tests carried out in England.