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12 things health data has taught us about Covid-19

It’s a milestone not to be celebrated – but it’s been just over six months since the government announced a UK wide lockdown to help control the spread of Covid-19.

Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) reflect on the vital role the UK’s health data research community has played during the pandemic.

Data collection has helped inform the government’s response to the virus and will continue to so as the country moves forward.

Here’s 12 things learned from Covid-19 health data, according to HDR UK:

  1. Around 40 strains of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus came to the UK, mainly from Europe

  2. Data from millions of Covid Symptom Study app users showed that loss of smell is a key symptom of Covid-19, leading to a change in NHS guidance

  3. Men, older people and those with underlying health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, are more at risk of worse outcomes from Covid-19

  4. People from Black, South Asian and minority ethnic groups in the UK are more likely to get Covid-19 and are at greater risk of worse outcomes

  5. Obesity increases the chances of falling seriously ill or being hospitalised with Covid-19, even for younger people

  6. Pregnant women aren’t at greater risk from severe Covid-19 overall, although Black and ethnic minority women and those with underlying health problems are more likely to be hospitalised

  7. Covid-19 outbreaks are more likely in large care homes, especially those with lower staffing levels

  8. Children and young people become less seriously ill with Covid-19 than adults, and severe disease is rare

  9. The RECOVERY trial showed that the drug dexamethasone cuts deaths by up to a third in severely ill Covid-19 patients while hydroxychloroquine and the antiviral combination lopinavir-ritonavir don’t help – health data was a vital part of the trial

  10. Young people have suffered most with mental health issues, such as anxiety, during lockdown

  11. There could be between 7,000-18,000 additional cancer deaths in the next year directly and indirectly due to Covid-19

  12. Around 5,000 heart attack sufferers might have missed out on life-saving hospital treatment as a result of the pandemic