UK Almost ‘Flying Blind’ on COVID This Autumn, Experts Say

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As cases rise, scientists say country is mostly in the dark about how infections could play out in coming months

The UK is nearly “flying blind” when it comes to Covid this autumn, experts have said, amid an increase in cases.

While the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) continues to track some metrics of Covid, including hospitalisation numbers, many of the community surveillance studies tracking infection levels have finished.

Now experts have said the situation is leaving the country in the dark about how Covid may play out in the months ahead.

Christina Pagel, a professor of operational research at University College London, said a new wave of Covid appeared to be under way – possibly driven by waning immunity, new variants of Omicron, and factors including poor weather keeping people inside.

With the autumn coming on and people returning to school and work, Covid pressures may increase, Pagel added.

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“We might see the wave continue to grow, and grow faster, in September,” she said.

As well as public health measures including reintroducing high-quality masks within healthcare settings, Pagel said she would support bringing back the nationwide infection survey published by the Office for National Statistics for autumn and winter, as well as expanding it to cover flu and RSV.

Failing that, she said, wastewater monitoring should be reinstated across the UK as a cheaper alternative that is used in many countries to track Covid prevalence and variants. Such schemes have recently been cut in England and Wales.

“What worries me most is if we get a repeat of the last winter NHS crisis this winter again, with Covid, flu and RSV all hitting around the same time,” said Pagel. “We are definitely flying near blind.”

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