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‘Virus fragments not infectious’

Fragments of the coronavirus that are detected in waste water in the Breede Valley are not infectious as it is no longer a living virus, says the Breede Valley Municipality (BVM).

Since May 2020 the waste water treatment works are being monitored to effectively and rapidly predict the potential spread of Covid-19.

BVM’s laboratory services extract samples (from the sewer system) on a weekly basis which, in collaboration with Cape Town laboratories, which is analysed to identify biomarkers (indicators) in faeces and urine in order to proactively predict and pre-empt Covid-19 infection rates, anticipated peaks and hotspots within the locality.

As the virus continues to mutate and rapidly spread across countries and borders, infection rates and variants are likely to follow suit in Breede Valley, as any other area, a spokesperson has said.

“As we produce ‘raw sewage’ (urine and faeces) daily, which ultimately ends up in the sewer system, it is naturally anticipated that viral remnants of Covid-19 and subsequent variants may be traced in localised wastewater.

“However, it is important to note that these fragments of the virus are not infectious as it is no longer a living virus. However, remnants of the Covid-19 Delta variant in localised wastewater should serve as renewed warning to adhere to Covid-19 prevention and protection protocol in order to limit rapid infection,” says the spokesperson.

This stance has been corroborated by a recent statement released by the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning:

“The surveillance of wastewater acts as an effective additional early warning system to pick up any increases in virus load in a specific area. This assists authorities to put management actions in place to address any increase in a number of positive cases within such an area”.

Although Covid-19 is not transmitted through sewage, it can still contain enteric viruses and bacteria. The municipality’s sewerage network channels raw sewage / wastewater to the Wastewater Treatment Works, where it is treated to a standard that is fit for returning the water to the environment. The presence of foreign objects such as fats, oils, stones and the like in the network may compromise its efficacy, exacerbate blockages and sewerage spills while increasing potential health risks. To ensure optimum efficacy of the system and to limit health risks posed by sewage spills, BVM urges residents to refrain from disposing foreign objects into the sewer system as it is solely designed to flush urine, faeces and associated greywater.

Citizens are encouraged to exercise special caution and safety during the prevalence of the Covid-19 third wave. Continue to exercise social distancing, wear a face mask, exercise good hygiene and avoid social gatherings.

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