If there’s anything about the UK’s response to Covid-19 that has beaten the world, it’s our surveillance system. From the World Health Organization to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public health teams around the world have praised the UK’s infection tracking capability and used our data to plan their own pandemic measures.

Despite this, health ministers canceled future funding for the React-1 study and other research projects. The decision was met with dismay by leading scientists and researchers around the world, who questioned the UK’s ability to respond to future Covid threats.

Last week, researchers at Imperial College London revealed the latest twist in the pandemic with the discovery that infections had started to rise among people aged 55 and over. Imperial scientists work with Ipsos Mori to analyze PCR test results from more than 100,000 people a month.

The results from React-1, along with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) weekly Covid infection survey, gave accurate snapshots of the number of people infected and the areas most affected. Surveys are much more reliable than self-selected community screening data, which misses many asymptomatic cases.

Yet Professor Paul Elliott, director of the React (Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission) study at Imperial, said last week that its future depended on funding from the Department of Health and Social Care – and that funding would cease this month.

“We have one more round,” he said when announcing the 18th round of findings last week. “So we’re going to be on the ground by the end of March, but we’re not funded beyond that.”

Other research, including the Zoe Covid app, which tracks people’s symptoms and has cost £5million over the past two years, is also being funded. Professor Tim Spector, who is leading the research, said he was given ‘just weeks’ notice’ of the ‘disappointing news’, after being assured by the UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) that he was almost certain funding would continue. “We strongly believe that this decision is a very serious mistake,” he said, adding that it only cost 1% of the funding needed for the ONS study.