Milton Keynes households invited to join study to monitor spread of COVID-19

    Households in Milton Keynes are being encouraged to volunteer for a study into monitoring the spread and impact of COVID-19. 

    Participants on the Virus Watch study are asked to complete online questionnaires, download an app and share their medical records whether they have the virus or not. 

    They may also be sent COVID-19 swab tests in the post and invited to receive blood tests at Milton Keynes University Hospital to see if they have immunity to the virus. 

    The NHS-supported study will help researchers better understand how the virus is spreading in the community and how effective national and local restrictions are at preventing the spread of the virus.  

    The University College London (UCL) led study will collect information from more than 40,000 people in England and Wales until March 2021.

    It is open to households of less than six people. Sign up at https://ucl-virus-watch.net

    After signing up, users are asked to:

    • Complete an online questionnaire about their personal details, medical history, whether they have had COVID-19 symptoms and behaviours such as social distancing and hand hygiene.
    • Share their medical records to identify any hospital visits for respiratory viruses since January. 
    • Download a smartphone app (optional) which records their location, so researchers can gain a better understanding of how people’s everyday activities affect their risk of catching COVID-19. 
    • Fill out weekly online surveys about whether anyone in their household has COVID-19 symptoms, whether they were treated for the virus, what was done to prevent the infection from spreading and what they did in the week before their illness.
    • Complete a monthly survey on the impact of COVID-19 restrictions to understand how people respond to government advice about COVID-19 and how this affects their lives. 
    • Selected households will receive swab tests in the post to return if they have COVID-19 symptoms. They will also be invited to a clinic to receive antibody blood tests to see if they have been infected with the virus and whether this leads to immunity. 

    The study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Medical Research Council.

    Professor Andrew Hayward, the study’s lead investigator at UCL, said: “Attempts to control the spread of COVID-19 have led to severe disruption.  

    “We need people from all walks of life to join our study to help us understand how effective different COVID-19 restrictions are and to understand the impact on people’s lives.”  

    The NIHR has nationally prioritised 69 COVID-19 studies. Find out more at www.nihr.ac.uk/covid-studies.  

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