Government considering monitoring waste water to track Covid-19 locally

The Government is considering monitoring waste water to track the rate of Covid-19 infection on a local level.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the Government’s “road map” for easing restrictions, including a new alert system to monitor the threat posed by coronavirus.

When asked whether cases could be detected locally, Mr Johnson said the new system could eventually identify local flare-ups if Covid-19 is detected in the water supply.

Mr Johnson responded: “Yes indeed, the intention is the Covid alert system in time will be sufficiently sensitive and flexible as to detect local flare-ups, so that for instance, if Covid is detected in the water supply of a certain town, then steps can be taken, or in a school, in an area, then steps can be taken on the spot to deal with that flare-up.”

He added: “Measures can be taken to keep the R down locally as well as nationally.”

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

Downing Street later clarified Mr Johnson’s comments on coronavirus traces possibly being found in water supplies related to sewage.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Yes, that specifically is a reference to sewage or waste water, as it is more politely described.

“Some studies have been carried out overseas on this and I think it is something we are looking at as a possible way of seeing if you could track the rate of infections locally.”

The Downing Street spokesman said officials were investigating whether sewage samples would allow them to “track if the virus is more prevalent in some parts of the country than in others”.

“Obviously it is just one of a number of ways we could do that,” they said.

“To the best of my knowledge, it is something we are looking at doing rather than something we are doing already.”