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Testing Decline

With the UK pulling back from some of its COVID-19 surveillance activities, the New York Times writes that a data hole could emerge.

It notes that at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK set up a consortium of researchers to track and sequence the virus, which enabled them to, for instance, spot the Alpha variant. More recently, the Times adds that UK efforts have given insight into the Omicron subvariant BA.2, finding that it is more transmissible than Omicron but does not lead to higher risk of hospitalization.

But on Friday, the UK ended two of its viral surveys and downsized another, according to the Times. It adds that this plus ending free viral testing is part of a shift in approach to "learn to live with this virus."

At the same time, other countries with robust monitoring systems like Denmark and Israel are also testing less. Combined, the Times writes, this could leave those countries and others unprepared for the emergence of a new viral variant. "If there's one thing we know about SARS-CoV-2, it's that it always surprises us," Imperial College London's Paul Elliott, who leads one of the surveys being scaled back, tells the Times.

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