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Changing risk factors for developing SARS-CoV-2 infection from Delta to Omicron

Publication date: 

15 May 2024


PLoS ONE 19(5): e0299714


Hunter P R and Brainard J

Publication type: 



Abstract Background One of the few studies to estimate infection risk with SARS-CoV-2 in the general population was the UK Office of National Statistics Infection Survey. This survey provided data that allowed us to describe and interpret apparent risk factors for testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 in a period when variants and COVID-19 controls experienced large changes. Method The ONS published estimates of likelihood of individuals testing positive in two week monitoring periods between 21st November 2021 and 7th May 2022, relating this positivity to social and behavioural factors. We applied meta-regression to these estimates of likelihood of testing positive to determine whether the monitored potential risk factors remained constant during the pandemic. Results Some risk factors had consistent relationship with risk of infection (always protective or always linked to higher risk, throughout monitoring period). Other risk factors had variable relationship with risk of infection, with changes seeming to especially correlate with the emergence of Omicron BA.2 dominance. These variable factors were mask-wearing habits, history of foreign travel, household size, working status (retired or not) and contact with children or persons age over 70. Conclusion Relevance of some risk factors to likelihood of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 may relate to reinfection risk, variant infectiousness and status of social distancing regulations.