Weekly Covid Infection Survey axed

Tomorrow sees the final release of the Office for National Statistics' weekly Covid Infection Survey - the de facto source of data on infection rates and new strains for medical professionals.

The decision to end the weekly resource while Covid levels remain stubbornly persistent, leaves the UK vulnerable to new waves of the virus, according to testing expert and chief scientific officer at London Medical Laboratory, Dr Quinton Fivelman.

"Cancelling this vital resource now is an incredibly blinkered decision. The data provided by the weekly Covid Infection Survey has been internationally admired as an invaluable source of information about how quickly new strains can arrive and sweep across a country," he said.

"The UK’s Health Security Agency itself acknowledges: 'The results have helped to provide vital weekly data on virus positivity levels across the UK, details on new variants, the characteristics of those who had the virus and their antibody levels and details of Long Covid prevalence. This helped develop an understanding of Covid-19 and inform government decision-making throughout the pandemic'.

"Despite the vital importance of the Survey, in January it was revealed that funding for the scheme would not be continued beyond March. This begs the question: has it become something of an 'inconvenient truth' for politicians anxious to put Covid behind them, regardless of the potential danger of new strains ahead?"

The decision to scrap the survey comes at a time when, according to the Survey’s own data, 1,322,000 people in England – 2.36% of the population or around 1 in 40 people – currently have the virus. In Wales, the estimated number of people testing positive for Covid-19 is 68,200 – 2.21% of the population or around 1 in 45 people. In Northern Ireland, the estimated number of people testing positive is 26,600 – 1.45% of the population or around 1 in 70 people. In Scotland, the estimated number of people testing positive is 105,100 – 2% of the population or around 1 in 50 people.

"These figures show Covid is still a significant problem. The estimated percentage of people testing positive for Covid increased in the Northwest, Yorkshire and The Humber last week, and cases in people aged over 70 across the UK also climbed. From next week, this kind of vital information will no longer be collected," Fivelman added. "People are still dying and being hospitalised every week because of this virus, and Long Covid currently appears just as likely to be caused by Omicron-variant infections as any previous strain of the virus."

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