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South Korea to check sewage samples for COVID-19

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South Korea this month will start weekly exams of sewage produced by its main cities and cities to trace the unfold of COVID-19 and determine future waves

ByKIM TONG-HYUNG Related Press

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea this month will start weekly exams of sewage produced by its main cities and cities to trace the unfold of COVID-19 and determine future waves.

Officers on the Korea Illness Management and Prevention Company mentioned Wednesday that wastewater surveillance will probably present a less expensive and extra sustainable instrument within the nation’s pandemic response. They are saying it might additionally enhance the detection of different outbreaks, akin to influenza, norovirus or drug-resistant micro organism.

Based on the plans, well being employees will conduct exams on sewage samples collected from 64 wastewater amenities nationwide at the least as soon as every week and usually launch analyses of the take a look at outcomes on its web site.

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KDCA mentioned its current trial runs with cities and provincial governments confirmed that the degrees of pathogens present in sewage samples largely aligned with an infection tendencies in these areas, confirming the worth of testing water launched from taps, bathrooms and bathtubs. Related exams have additionally been adopted in america.

South Korea had maintained a stringent COVID-19 response based mostly on aggressive testing, contact tracing and quarantines in the course of the earlier a part of the pandemic, however has eased most of its virus controls since final 12 months because the omicron variant’s surge rendered these containment methods irrelevant.

Authorities officers are additionally desperate to revive a devastated service sector financial system and entice extra vacationers. Their plans for wastewater testing are additionally an extension of their bend-but-not-break strategy with COVID-19 that tolerates the coronavirus’ unfold among the many broader inhabitants whereas concentrating medical sources to guard precedence teams.

Lee Sang-won, KDCA’s director of epidemiologic analysis, mentioned wastewater surveillance might assist the nation’s transition towards a extra reasonably priced virus monitoring regime.

South Korea’s present system continues to be geared toward monitoring each COVID-19 case by requiring hospitals to report all Positive exams, an strategy Lee described as costly and laborious. He mentioned well being officers are contemplating an eventual change to “sample-based surveillance,” like they do with influenza monitoring, the place solely a sure variety of designated hospitals register their {cases}.

“When that (transition) comes, we consider wastewater surveillance will perform as a really efficient instrument” for offering complementary info on virus tendencies, Lee mentioned throughout a briefing. “One other power is that we are able to monitor numerous pathogens apart from COVID-19.”

Whereas coronaviruses inflicting COVID-19 don’t doubtless survive in water for lengthy, Lee mentioned the nation’s genetic testing strategies would additionally have the ability to detect fragments of {dead} viruses.

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