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Medical research council detects drop in Covid-19 at wastewater plants

Concentrations of non-infectious SARS-CoV-2 RNA fragments are levelling off or declining in both urban and rural areas. Stock photo.
Concentrations of non-infectious SARS-CoV-2 RNA fragments are levelling off or declining in both urban and rural areas. Stock photo.
Image: 123rf/qq47182080

The SA Medical Research Council’s (SAMRC) wastewater surveillance team has seen a decline in concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA fragments in the majority of wastewater treatment plants.

The team undertakes weekly sampling and analysis from 72 wastewater treatment plants in urban and rural areas across four provinces (Gauteng, Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape) to support the management of Covid-19 in SA.

The concentrations of non-infectious SARS-CoV-2 RNA fragments are levelling off or declining in both urban and rural areas.

“We are seeing this pattern of levelling or declining concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA fragments in 89% of the wastewater treatment plants we are monitoring in urban areas (Buffalo City, Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay) and 97% of wastewater treatment plants in rural areas in Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Western Cape,” said Prof Angela Mathee, a member of the team.

“The declining concentrations corroborate what we’re seeing with Covid-19 cases around the country,” said another team member, Dr Renée Street.

She cautioned, however, that while SARS-CoV-2 RNA levels are declining, they remain high and are still cause for public health concern. 

“The declining concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater are encouraging,” said SAMRC president, Prof Glenda Gray.

But she warned that it “should not be viewed as an indication that we may drop our guard”.

Prof Gray said wearing masks, avoiding crowds and gatherings, holding essential gatherings outdoors or in well-ventilated spaces and hand hygiene are pivotal in controlling Covid-19 waves, and urged all to persist with these practices, especially during the holiday season.

She encouraged South Africans to vaccinate and for those who are eligible to take booster shots.

TimesLIVE


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