Wastewater monitoring for Covid to resume in Wales
Wastewater monitoring for Covid and other viruses is to resume in Wales after being halted in July due to financial pressure on the Welsh Government’s budget.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan announced the resumption following talks with both Bangor and Cardiff Universities.
The monitoring of wastewater was introduced during the Covid pandemic and the test results provided valuable intelligence to health officials about the levels of the virus circulation in local communities.
The programme was delivered through a consortium led by Bangor University, along with Cardiff University, Public Health Wales and Welsh Water.
It was expanded earlier this year from monitoring at waste treatment plants to also at testing hospitals and other sites.
In May, the health minister officially opened a Wastewater Research Centre at Bangor University. Funding for the £4.4 million programme was scrapped two months later, on 24 July.
In her statement, the minister said: “Earlier this year I made the difficult decision to halt the wastewater monitoring programme because of the impact of tough financial pressures on the Welsh Government budget.
“In making this decision I remained committed to continuing work on the future utility of wastewater monitoring for SARS-CoV2, alongside other hazards that could impact on the health and wellbeing of the people of Wales.
“Our integrated surveillance system is a critical element of our public health respiratory framework, which includes monitoring respiratory viruses in hospitals and other healthcare settings.
“My officials have been working closely with Bangor University and Cardiff University to understand how wastewater monitoring could add value to our integrated surveillance system at a revised scale.
“The data from wastewater monitoring can potentially provide us with an early indication of changes in circulating SARS-CoV2 as we prepare and plan for an uncertain winter.
“I have agreed a proposal that will resume wastewater monitoring in Wales. It will provide additional intelligence and surveillance on COVID-19 transmission in our communities as well as levels of other viruses like Influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus.
“Our new approach still delivers significant financial savings, and reflects how we have begun to live with COVID-19 by maintaining an appropriate level of surveillance to detect and monitor the virus in the community, enabling us to intervene in a timely and evidence informed way.”
Welcoming the announcement, Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth said: “Plaid Cymru are pleased that the Welsh Government has listened to our calls to resume wastewater monitoring in Wales.
“After the Welsh Government announced that the project’s funding would be cut in August this year, we raised our concerns, and demanded a reconsideration in the interest of public health.
“We will continue to demand assurances that the revised plan is effective and that support for it from the Government continues.”
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