Relative contribution of essential and non-essential activities to SARS-CoV-2 transmission following the lifting of public health restrictions in England and Wales

Epidemiol Infect. 2022 Dec 7;151:e3. doi: 10.1017/S0950268822001832.


Purpose: We aimed to understand which non-household activities increased infection odds and contributed greatest to SARS-CoV-2 infections following the lifting of public health restrictions in England and Wales.

Procedures: We undertook multivariable logistic regressions assessing the contribution to infections of activities reported by adult Virus Watch Community Cohort Study participants. We calculated adjusted weighted population attributable fractions (aPAF) estimating which activity contributed greatest to infections.

Findings: Among 11 413 participants (493 infections), infection was associated with: leaving home for work (aOR 1.35 (1.11-1.64), aPAF 17%), public transport (aOR 1.27 (1.04-1.57), aPAF 12%), shopping once (aOR 1.83 (1.36-2.45)) vs. more than three times a week, indoor leisure (aOR 1.24 (1.02-1.51), aPAF 10%) and indoor hospitality (aOR 1.21 (0.98-1.48), aPAF 7%). We found no association for outdoor hospitality (1.14 (0.94-1.39), aPAF 5%) or outdoor leisure (1.14 (0.82-1.59), aPAF 1%).

Conclusion: Essential activities (work and public transport) carried the greatest risk and were the dominant contributors to infections. Non-essential indoor activities (hospitality and leisure) increased risk but contributed less. Outdoor activities carried no statistical risk and contributed to fewer infections. As countries aim to 'live with COVID', mitigating transmission in essential and indoor venues becomes increasingly relevant.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; infectious disease epidemiology; public health; respiratory infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Public Health
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Wales / epidemiology