PHE COVID-19 Rapid Reviews

PHE COVID-19 Evidence team

Rapid review process

Table of publications



The primary role of the COVID-19 Evidence team is to support the use of evidence within PHE’s COVID-19 response. This is achieved by identification of rapid reviews on relevant topics (both published and ongoing), production of evidence summaries and rapid reviews, and by identification of evidence gaps.

The COVID-19 Evidence team consists of a number of core members including a cell lead, reviewers, an information scientist and administration support, plus a flexible pool of reviewers and topic experts.


Rapid review process 

We produce the following outputs:

Scoping search – a search of COVID-19 review repositories and additional sources [see current list], in order to quickly identify published or ongoing relevant reviews.

Scoping summary – a brief summary (1-2 pages) of mainly review-level evidence, found from the above scoping search, with the aim of understanding the amount and quality of review-level evidence available on a topic. A scoping summary usually involves an appraisal of any reviews identified, using AMSTAR 2. Scoping summaries end with options for further work, including producing an evidence summary, conducting a new rapid review (or updating an existing review) or no further action.  Note: a scoping summary is produced for every question unless a new review is fast-tracked due to importance.

Evidence summary – a detailed summary and quality appraisal of one or more relevant reviews that answers a specific question, or makes a significant contribution towards answering a question. Note: an evidence summary is produced if a relevant review of acceptable quality is identified, and aims to avoid duplication of effort by summarising existing reviews instead of replicating a similar review. Occasionally, an evidence summary will be produced using a lower quality review due to time constraints.

Rapid review – our rapid reviews adopt systematic review methods, with parts of the review process simplified, to allow a product to be delivered in a shorter timescale. They involve a systematic search, screening, data extraction, critical appraisal and synthesis of the relevant evidence, using a protocol, in order to answer a specific question. Timeframes to produce these vary from 3 days to 2 weeks. The search strategy and study selection methods for each of our rapid reviews are included in the documents in the table of publications below. Note: a rapid review may be produced if no existing relevant review of acceptable quality is found – if a similar external review is currently underway (e.g. registered in Prospero), the completion date and results of this will be assessed first. Some of the questions we undertake to answer do not progress to full rapid reviews due to lack of primary studies, or the identification of suitable relevant reviews (completed or ongoing), and these are marked as No further action. 

Table of publications showing review questions, current stage of review and last search date

Review questionScoping summaryStatus of rapid reviewDate of last search
What factors are identified as contributing to the transmission of COVID-19 in food processing settings?
[Scoping search]
What is the risk of transmission of COVID-19 within public transport settings?
[Scoping search]
OngoingNot applicable08/07/2020
What is the effectiveness of using face shields/visors in relation to COVID-19?
[Scoping search]
Outbreaks or transmission of COVID-19 on cruise ships, including interventions to reduce transmission
[Scoping search]
Temperature screening for reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2
[Scoping search]
Scoping summaryCompleted21/04/2020
What is the risk of infectious transmission for COVID-19 from the deceased/dead bodies?
[Scoping search]
Scoping summaryContact us18/05/2020
What is the effectiveness of restricting staff movements, or of cohorting residents, for reducing spread of COVID-19 in care homes?
[Scoping search]
Scoping summaryCompleted13/05/2020
What is the contribution of asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 in driving up the R0?
[Scoping search]
Contact usNo further action15/05/2020
Is vitamin D linked to Covid-19 susceptibility, morbidity or mortality?
[Scoping search]
Scoping summaryNo further action18/05/2020
Transmission of COVID-19 in schools and effectiveness of interventions to reduce transmission
[Scoping search]
OngoingContact us18/06/2020
What is the risk of transmission of COVID-19 when delivering domiciliary care, and how effective are interventions that aim to minimise that risk?
[Scoping search]
Not applicableCompleted02/06/2020
The potential transmission of SARS-CoV-2 or other coronaviruses while singing or playing musical instruments (which require blowing)Scoping summaryNo further action02/06/2020
Is there a risk of catching COVID-19 from viral contamination of surfaces?
[Scoping search]
Scoping summaryNo further action03/06/2020
Effectiveness of face coverings/masks in non-healthcare settings
[Scoping search]
Scoping summaryCompleted and
Supplementary file
What is the impact on people maintaining at least 2 metres distance compared to a smaller distance on the spread of COVID-19 in the community?
[Scoping search]
Scoping summaryContact us01/07/2020
What are the different approaches to contact tracing and how effective are they?
[Scoping search]
Scoping summaryOngoing17/06/2020


New reviews will be added to the top of the table as soon as they are accepted by the COVID-19 Evidence team.



PHE’s rapid reviews aim to provide the best available evidence to decision makers in a timely and accessible way, based on published peer-reviewed scientific papers, unpublished reports and papers on pre-print servers. Please note that the reviews: i) use accelerated methods and may not be representative of the whole body of evidence publicly available; ii) have undergone an internal, but not independent, peer review; and iii) are only valid as of the date stated on the review.    

In the event that this review is shared externally, please note additionally, to the greatest extent possible under any applicable law, that PHE accepts no liability for any claim, loss or damage arising out of, or connected with the use of, this review by the recipient and/or any third party including that arising or resulting from any reliance placed on, or any conclusions drawn from, the review.


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