How the survey is changing
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW, FLEXIBLE APPROACH FOR CIS PARTICIPANTS
How is the COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS) changing?
We are making some changes so it’s easier to take part in the survey.
- You will post your samples to us, rather than having face-to-face appointments at your home, for greater flexibility.
- You will still answer survey questions, but you can respond online or on the phone.
Why is the survey still needed?
The world-leading survey provides valuable information to answer important questions about how the virus is changing across the population. As we learn to live with COVID-19, the Government is clear that ongoing surveillance is critical to manage the virus, react to any emerging variants and monitor how vaccinations and previous infections affect our risk of getting COVID-19 in the future.
How do I take part in the survey?
You will receive a letter from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) if you are invited to register and take part. We are not accepting new registrations right now, but we may contact you in the future.
If you are already taking part in the CIS, we will continue to update you about the study by letter or email. It’s helpful if you can keep a record of your unique participant ID which appears on letters and emails.
Who is running the survey?
The ONS is responsible for running the survey, working closely with the University of Oxford who is the Sponsor for the survey, managing the Research Ethics Committee approvals and providing scientific oversight. Research Ethics Committees are entirely independent groups which review research proposals and give an opinion about whether the research is ethical.
Will the survey changes make things easier for me?
The changes to the survey will give you greater flexibility around when you take your samples and answer the questionnaire. In future, you won't need to wait for a study worker to come and visit you, and you can post your samples back to us at your convenience within your allocated testing window.
How does the testing process work?
You will receive a letter or email from us (ONS/University of Oxford) telling you the days in which your tests should be completed, called your ‘testing window’. Your swab kit will arrive in the post (as well as a blood kit if you are taking part in blood testing) and you will need to take your samples, post them in your nearest Royal Mail priority postbox, and complete the online questionnaire within the testing window. If you need any support with this process, please contact the us by phone or email. Our contact details are in the email/letter telling you about your testing window and in the ‘Further help’ section of this guide.
What if I don't take my sample and complete my questionnaire within my testing window?
We use testing windows to make sure that we sample a wide range of representative people across the UK every week and tests are evenly spread to give us the most accurate picture of current infection rates. We aim for everyone in the survey to give a sample roughly every month after they first join. If you do not take your sample and complete your questionnaire within your testing window, you will not receive a voucher for this testing window.
Posting your samples
What is a Royal Mail priority postbox and why should I use it?
Priority postboxes have extra or later collections than regular postboxes, which is why it’s important to use them to return your samples.
How can I find my nearest Royal Mail priority postbox?
You can find your nearest priority postbox and the collection times here
Can someone else take the sample to the priority postbox for me?
If you can’t get to the priority postbox yourself, you can ask someone else to post the samples for you.
Do I need to pay for postage?
You do not need to pay for postage. All test kits are sent with pre-paid packaging.
What should I do if I can’t get to a priority postbox within my testing window and there isn't someone else who could take it for me?
If you can’t reach a priority postbox yourself and have no one you can ask to help, a courier service is available. Instructions on how to organise this are in your letter.
I can’t use a computer, can I still take part in the survey?
If you cannot use a computer to complete your questionnaire, you can do it over the phone. Details of how to contact us to do this are in your letter.
Will I receive a voucher for taking part?
For every testing window completed, each person in the household will receive a £20 voucher, if they wish to accept it. A completed testing window means you have provided and posted your samples and completed the questionnaire.
Can I still spend my vouchers with the same retailers?
At present, there are no plans to change where you can spend your vouchers. A full list of online and in-store retailers can be found at ons.gov.uk/cis. Remember that the electronic vouchers last for three months and then expire.
How can I make sure I use the correct barcode for my samples and questionnaire?
It is important that you do not mix up your barcodes with others in your household. You may want to write your name next to your barcodes on the helpful information sheet which comes with each test kit, so you know whose barcode is whose.
If you have booked a courier to collect your samples but need to change the date then you are able to do this as long as you haven’t taken your samples and completed your questionnaire yet.
Need more help? Call us on:
0800 085 6807 – English language number
0800 917 9323 – Welsh language number
Our opening times are:
Monday to Thursday - 9:00am to 9:00pm
Friday - 9:00am to 8:00pm
Saturday and Sunday 9:00am to 5:00pm
If you have any further questions on the COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS), email COVIDemail@example.com.