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The Water Research Commission is monitoring wastewater for #COVID19 infections in communities. The first of the three-phase programme was successfully completed in September.

Launched in May by the Water Research Commission (WRC), the special programme on the Surveillance of COVID-19 in wastewater was conceptualised as the implementation vehicle for monitoring the spread of COVID-19 in communities.

The primary aim of this programme is; to share knowledge, stimulate research and innovations on water quality, sanitation and health and support the initiatives of government in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

“The need to identify hotspots and the early stages of the disease to curb transmission is imperative. By determining geographical risk areas for infection and more specifically investigating epidemiological characteristics of COVID-19 infections, secondary attack rates and modes of transmission, we could predict second wave infections and mitigate the virus societal and medical impact,” said the commission.

The WRC intervention is comprised of three phases, the first being the establishment of the proof of concept of presence of COVID-19 in wastewater and sanitation samples, as well as establishing sample collection and testing protocols so that monitoring results can be reliable and compared.

Jay Bhagwan from the commission confirmed that this was succesfuly doen and they have now launched the second phase, which focuses on the establishment of a wider capacity of laboratories in South Africa and puts into operation more communities into surveillance.

Bhagwan says they are specifically looking for COVID-19 particles within the waste water, because any infected individual that uses the toilet and flushes would release these non-infectious remnants.

“These remnants have a very specific signature and we are then able to monitor this signature at the end of the sewerage network. Through the science and methods we have, we would then be able to quantify the level of infection,” said Bhagwan in an interview with ENCA.

The third phase will enable the facilitation of the establishment of a national surveillance programme supported by hotspot mapping.

Watch here as Bhagwan unpacks this:

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