Thank you for contacting me about Covid-19 surveillance.
Thanks to our hugely successful vaccination programme, the immunity built up in the population and new antiviral and therapeutics tools, we are now able to live with the virus, without government regulation and focusing on personal responsibility.
The overwhelming majority of people in the UK now have some protection against Covid-19 through vaccination and/or previous infection, but the virus will continue to evolve and variants which are immune-evading may still occur. The Government will therefore maintain a range of capabilities to protect those at higher risk of severe illness. It will also retain proportionate situational awareness through surveillance, and maintain proportionate critical resilience for the future, for example a holding of lateral flow tests, should a dangerous new wave or variant emerge.
The Government will maintain essential Covid-19 surveillance activities in the community, primary and secondary care, and in high-risk settings, which will enable the evaluation of the effectiveness of vaccination against a range of clinical outcomes, to inform vaccine deployment, and appropriate disease management. This will be underpinned by the continuation of genomic sequencing to detect and assess severity and vaccine effectiveness against new variants in surveillance studies and where polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing has been performed in secondary care on a proportionate basis.
Appropriate levels of testing will remain to support diagnosis for clinical care and treatment and to protect very high-risk individuals and settings. Lateral flow device (LFD) testing continues to be effective in detecting positive results, including new variants, providing better value for money than PCR testing at this stage of the pandemic as well as rapid results. LFDs will be used except where there is a specific clinical or epidemiological need to use a PCR test.
The Government will retain proportionate capability for testing use in the event of a Covid-19 wave or variant that results in a significant increase in pressure on the NHS. Laboratory infrastructure and a stock of LFDs will be maintained to provide resilience to respond, allowing for a period of additional testing for individuals at higher risk of severe respiratory illness across the NHS and the care sector. A more comprehensive response can be scaled up, should this be needed.
The approach to Covid-19 surveillance is being actively reviewed by the UKHSA to ensure it is proportionate, cost effective and considered alongside how the Government monitors a range of other infectious diseases that present a similar risk to the public’s health.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me