UK cuts could cause Covid data drought

“However you look at it, it’s going to very severely degrade the insight we can have, either in the number of infections or in our ability to spot new variants when they come through,” said Dr. Paterson.

Experts warned it will be difficult to resume surveillance programs of the coronavirus, officially known as SARS-CoV-2, if a new variant emerges.

“If there’s one thing we know about SARS-CoV-2, it’s that it never ceases to surprise us,” said Paul Elliott, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London and lead investigator on one of the community surveys that will be cut. “Things can change very, very quickly.”

Other countries are also adopting a Live with Covid philosophy in their surveillance. The testing rate in Denmark has fallen by almost 90 percent since its peak in January. The Danish government announced on March 10 that testing would only be required for certain medical reasons, such as pregnancy.

Astrid Iversen, an Oxford-based virologist who has advised the Danish government, expressed concern that the country was trying to convince itself the pandemic was over. “The virus didn’t get the email,” she said.

With the drop in testing, she said, the daily case count in Denmark no longer reflects the true state of the pandemic as it once did. But the country is stepping up widespread sewage testing that could work well enough to monitor new variants. If wastewater shows an alarming rise, the country could start testing again.

“I am confident that Denmark will be able to grow,” she said.

Israel has also seen a drastic drop in testing, but Ran Balicer, the director of the Clalit Research Institute, said the country’s health systems will continue to track variants and monitor vaccine effectiveness. “For us, living with Covid does not mean ignoring Covid,” he said. UK cuts could cause Covid data drought

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