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The chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance has warned that further variants of Covid are expected – and that they could be more severe than previous ones.

Therefore, although most of the free testing system is being dismantled in England, the government insists that the UK will continue to do detailed checks and surveillance to look for resurgences of Covid and any concerning new variants which may emerge.

For example, some people in the community will still be asked to do regular tests for Covid as part of the Office for National Statistics’ Infection Survey.

Positive test results collected this way can be analysed to identify the type of Covid people have. Throughout the pandemic, scientists have learned a great deal about how to track the virus, and the government says it will be possible to scale up such operations again in the future if necessary.

Trials are already underway to test updated vaccines that could be a better match for the virus as it continues to change.

The UK government also says it will also help support other countries in developing their own surveillance capabilities, because a new variant can emerge anywhere.