Coronavirus wastewater surveys postponed a week

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Wastewater treatment plant in Tallinn. Source: Tallinna Vesi

Regular weekly coronavirus wastewater surveys are taking a break again this week. While the original plan had been to resume the surveys, which report rates of coronavirus traces found in sewage, earlier, the Health Board (Terviseamet) is unable to provide the same methodologies as the University of Tartu, which had been conducting the work through to the end of the academic year. The board says it will be able to provide data next week.

Janne Pullat, head of the board's infectious diseases lab, said that the issue was a technological one, and the two labs were. "Somewhat different and, as a result, their results are not comparable with one another."

Adapting the university's protocols was the first thing the lab would need to have done, Pullat added, which in turn would have necessitated comparative tests between the two institutions. Not enough preparation time had been set aside for this, he said, meaning the surveys are on hiatus.

The Health Board has still been conducting wastewater analyzes over the past couple of weeks and says it will be able to provide overview of the areas in which coronavirus traces are on the rise in wastewater. These results are expected next week.

The University of Tartu will resume its surveys in August, ERR reports – it had been scheduled to break up for summer in early July in any case, but rising rates had prompted the continuation of the surveys.

The last survey results, published in early July, reported a fall to moderate or low levels nationwide, while the trend up until that point had been for a decline in the incidence of COVID-19 in the water samples.

The University of Tartu team, headed by Professor Tanel Tenson, says when it reconvenes it wil look at making comparative studies between its data and the Health Board's, which should smooth the way for easier comparisons in the future.

Janne Pullat confirmed that this work would start in September.

Health Board director Üllar Lanno said last week that the monitoring was to continue during the university's summer break in the same way and using around 20 of the university's 60 sampling points, but overseen by the board.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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