About this release

This dashboard release by Public Health Scotland provides the latest results and methodologies of the serology surveillance programme. The serology workstream aims to estimate the proportion of people who have antibodies to coronavirus ("seroprevalence") in the general population of Scotland and to see if this changes over time.

Main points

  • The proportion of people attending community healthcare settings who had antibodies to coronavirus is estimated to be 11.2% (95% CI: 9.9%-12.4%) in the 5-week period up to and including week beginning 18 January 2021.
    • At NHS Board level, proportions were highest in NHS Lanarkshire (14.7%, 95% CI: 10.7%-18.3%) and lowest in NHS Shetland (4.5%, 95% CI: 0.9%-9.9%).
    • By age-group, proportions were highest in those aged 0-19 years (13.0%, 95% CI: 10.6%-16.0%) and lowest in those aged 60+ years (9.1%, 95% CI: 7.0%-11.2%).
    • Proportions among males (10.6%, 95% CI: 8.4%-11.9%) and females (11.9%, 95% CI: 10.3%-14.0%) were largely similar in this time period.

Interpretation

  • We suggest that, when interpreting the results, there is a focus on the confidence intervals rather than the point estimates.
  • This suggests that, overall among those attending community healthcare settings, we can be reasonably confident that COVID-19 seroprevalence lies between 9.9% and 12.4% during the 5-week period up to and including week beginning 18 January 2021. Our results are from a sample of individuals attending community healthcare settings and there is uncertainty whether these individuals are representative of the general population.

Background

Public Health Scotland (PHS), in partnership with NHS Boards, is leading national surveillance and research studies that include the use of serology (the study of a part of the blood called serum). COVID-19 is caused by the new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. When the body is infected with coronavirus, it produces antibodies to help fight the virus, and these may be detected by blood tests. The detection of antibodies provides an indication that someone has had COVID-19, and provides a way of monitoring what proportion of people have had the virus. We use serology methods to detect these antibodies.

The PHS serology surveillance programme uses existing blood samples within community healthcare and other settings. The serology workstream aims to estimate the proportion of people who have antibodies to coronavirus (“seroprevalence”) in the general population of Scotland and to see if this changes over time.

Since week commencing 20 April 2020, blood samples, originally collected for other clinical reasons in community healthcare settings, have been obtained from regional biochemistry laboratories across Scotland. Six NHS boards (NHS Grampian, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, NHS Highland, NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Lothian and NHS Tayside) have provided weekly data since the beginning of the programme. An additional five NHS Boards (NHS Dumfries & Galloway, NHS Fife, NHS Forth Valley, NHS Orkney and NHS Shetland) joined the programme at later dates. Approximately 700 samples are collected each week. Laboratories select specific numbers of samples by age and sex to achieve a representative sample based on the age and sex structure of the general population in that NHS board. Samples are anonymised and sent to the Scottish Microbiology Reference Laboratory in Inverness for testing. Seroprevalence rates have been adjusted for the accuracy of the antibody test and weighted to the population structure. The results presented here cover the phase of the project between week commencing 20 April 2020 and week commencing 18 January 2021 (i.e. up to and including 24 January 2021) when 27,494 samples had been received from the 11 participating NHS boards.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 24 February 2021.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.comms@phs.scot.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 28 June 2021
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