COVID-19 prevalence amongst people experiencing homelessness in Wales, UK, now lower than in general population

A population level study of SARS-CoV-2 prevalence amongst people experiencing homelessness in Wales, UK

Ian Thomas and Peter Mackie, Cardiff University (International Journal of Population Data Science, 2/12/21)

Introduction Prior research into the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection amongst people experiencing homelessness (PEH) largely relates to people in communal forms of temporary accommodation in contexts where this type of accommodation remained a major part of the response to homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Little is known about the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 amongst PEH more broadly, and in a policy and practice context that favoured self-contained accommodation, such as Wales, UK.

Objective Describe the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 amongst PEH in Wales, UK, using routinely collected administrative data from the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage Databank.

Methods Routinely collected data were used to identify PEH in Wales between 1st March 2020 and 1st March 2021. Using SARS-CoV-2 pathology testing data, prevalence rates were generated for PEH and three comparator groups: (1) the not-homeless population; (2) a cohort `exact matched’ for age, sex, local authority and area deprivation; and (3) a matched comparison group created using these same variables and Propensity Score Matching (PSM). Three logistic regressions were run on samples containing each of the comparator groups to explore the effect of experiencing homelessness on testing positive for SARS-CoV-2.

Results The prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection amongst PEH was 5.0%, compared to the not-homeless population at 5.6%. For the exact matched and PSM match comparator groups, prevalence was 6.9% and 6.7%, respectively. Logistic regression found that SARS-CoV-2 infection was 0.9 times less likely amongst PEH compared to people not experiencing homelessness from the general population. The odds of SARS-CoV-2 infection for PEH was 0.75 and 0.73 where the `not-homeless’ comparators were from the exact match and PSM samples, respectively.

Conclusion Our analysis revealed that a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 amongst PEH in Wales was lower than the general population. A policy response to homelessness that moved away from communal accommodation may be partly responsible for the reduced SAR-CoV-2 infection amongst PEH.