Denmark to test sewage water for Covid-19

Denmark to test sewage water for Covid-19
Health minister Magnus Heunicke. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix
Denmark is to test for the prevalence of coronavirus in certain areas by analysing sewage water, the country’s health minister has said.

Health minister Magnus Heunicke said in parliament on Tuesday that Denmark would follow the example of some other countries, including Sweden and the United Kingdom, by analysing sewage water for traces of Covid-19.

“My expectation is that within a reasonable timescale we will be able to test sewage water in Denmark. This should, of course, be done sensibly. We can, for example, monitor specific areas where there is not high compliance with testing,” he said.

The minister has asked the national infectious disease agency, State Serum Institute (SSI), to form a plan for how and when analysis of sewage water can be used as part of the national Covid-19 testing strategy. A response is expected this week.

A spokesperson from the opposition Liberal party suggested that care homes are an ideal place for testing of this type. A high proportion of residents at the homes have now received a Covid-19 vaccination.

But no specific locations for testing will be confirmed prior to the SSI assessment, Heunicke said.

According to prior assessments by SSI, testing sewage water can be a useful supplement to regular testing if vaccination is underway, fewer people are receiving tests or if infection numbers are low.

Detection of the virus in sewage water prior to an outbreak of symptomatic cases can help to control virus spread, the agency has found.

However, the method is less reliable than direct testing of individuals.

Denmark currently has 371 coronavirus in-patients nationally, continuing a trend of falling infection rates and hospitalisations during the ongoing national lockdown.

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