UK easing COVID-19 testing, monitoring despite case uptick


LONDON (AP) — After dropping nearly all coronavirus limitations last month, Britain is now stoping some of its most widespread COVID-19 testing and monitoring programs, a move some scientists fear will complicate efforts to find the virus and detect new variants.

Based on how speedily new variants have formed, some experts suggest the next one could arrive as early as May. They warn that U.K. authorities should be using the time to prepare, rather than closing down their pandemic defenses.

Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, called it “an unfortunate pattern” that has been seen repeatedly throughout the pandemic.

“Every time one wave of COVID passes, the government acts as if it’s the end of the pandemic,” he said.

“I do not understand why governments are not learning this lesson,” he said.

In the last two weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have both increased slightly in Britain. British Health Secretary Sajid Javid described the increase as “expected” and the country as “in a very good position.”

“The government cannot wave a magic wand and pretend the threat has disappeared entirely,” said Matthew Taylor, chief executive of Britain’s National Health Service.

“If we were to have extensive testing adapted to everyone who has COVID-19, that would mean half a billion kronor a week (about $55 million) and 2 billion a month ($220 million),” said Swedish Public Health Agency chief Karin Tegmark Wisell last month, when their testing programs were shelved.