Waste water being tested for Covid at Cambridge and Colchester sewage treatment works

PUBLISHED: 10:00 30 October 2020

Checks are being made in Essex and Cambridgeshire for coronavirus in sewage. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Checks are being made in Essex and Cambridgeshire for coronavirus in sewage. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

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A government-led project is testing for Covid at various locations including at Cambridge Sewage Treatment Works and Colchester Sewage Treatment Works.

Experts hope this will provide an early warning for local outbreaks. The data will be shared with NHS Test and Trace.

The programme has proven that fragments of genetic material from the virus can be detected in wastewater.

This can indicate where a local community or an institution is experiencing a spike in cases.

The results can provide health professionals with a picture of infection rates by identifying where there are high numbers.

Sampling has been rolled out to over 80 sites in the UK, with plans to expand.

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said: “Sewage is a rich source of information about community health.

“I recently visited Starcross laboratory and saw the testing, monitoring and analysis carried out by the Environment Agency’s wastewater experts.”


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