Ministers have been accused of “turning off the headlights at the first sign of dawn” after scrapping nationwide Covid surveillance programmes, with scientists saying it will almost certainly end up costing more money in the long run.
Last week, scientists announced that the React study – which randomly tests about 150,000 people across England each month to see how many are infected with coronavirus – will be scrapped at the end of March, and no further data will be collected beyond that point.
Funding is also being withdrawn from the Zoe covid symptom study, the Siren and Vivaldi studies (which monitor infections in health workers and care homes) and the CoMix social contacts survey, while mass free testing is due to end on 1 April.
The Office for National Statistics’ Covid infection survey, which regularly samples the same 180,000 people to estimate what percentage of the UK populations is infected, will continue.
It comes as growing numbers of new infections in multiple countries led one expert to prompt speculation that Europe could be at the start of a sixth wave of Covid infections, partly driven by the “stealth” BA.2 Omicron variant.