EU urges to monitor wastewater from flights from China

EU urges to monitor wastewater from flights from China
EU urges to monitor wastewater from flights from China. Photo: Colin Cooke, Wikimedia Commons.

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EU urges to monitor wastewater from flights from China. Due to the recent outbreak of the coronavirus in China European officials turn again to wastewater monitoring. Thanks to this method experts will be able to discover new variants of the virus earlier. Some countries, like Belgium and Austria, already started with wastewater monitoring at airports.

According to Reuters the European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the 29th of December in a letter to EU governments they should consider immediately scaling up genomic sequencing of COVID-19 infections and monitoring of waste water, including at airports, to detect any new variants, given the surge in infections in China.

Austria

The Austrian authorities also plan to monitor wastewater at renowned tourist destinations that are popular with Chinese visitors. Austria has maintained a wastewater monitoring program in Vienna and Salzburg since the beginning of 2021 to keep track of new variants.

Belgium

The Belgian federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke announced on Monday they would implement a similar wastewater monitoring program on China flights. The Brussels Times reports wastewater from direct flights from China arriving at Brussels Airport Zaventem (two per week) will be examined for the presence of Covid-19. Vandenbroucke: “This will allow us to study the genome of the virus to detect any variants. All European countries should do that. Several other countries – such as the United States, Australia and Malaysia – are also considering the measures.”

Detecting new variants

Wastewater monitoring has become an important instrument in detecting Covid-spikes and now it will help detecting new variants. Besides wastewater monitoring EU-officials strongly recommend Chinese travellers should test negative before they will travel. After the zero-covid policy the number of Covid-cases exploded. How bad the situation is, we do not know, because the Chinese authorities are not sharing information.

WHO pleas to share information

The World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned about the COVID-19 surge in China. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said they continue to ask China for more rapid, regular, reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as more comprehensive, real-time viral sequencing.

Wastewater monitoring in WWTP’s

In a growing number of countries wastewater surveillance in Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTP’s) became part of the new normal in order to control the spread of Covid-19. In July 2021 the Danish government allowed towns to monitor wastewater for the coronavirus. In the Netherlands, the authorities made budget available for wastewater surveillance on a daily basis. And in England, a dedicated lab has been opened to process wastewater samples covering two-thirds of the population.

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