European Commission adopts a common approach to track COVID-19 through wastewater monitoring

Today, the European Commission adopted a Recommendation on monitoring COVID-19 and its variants in wastewaters in the EU.

The aim is to make greater use of a new source of independent information on the spread of the virus and its variants, which will make a significant and cost-effective contribution to public health decision-making.

The Recommendation asks the Member States to put in place wastewater surveillance systems and ensure that relevant data is promptly provided to the competent health authorities.

Common methods for sampling, measurement and data analysis, supported by a European exchange platform should be made available and used to ensure that the collected data is reliable and comparable.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “Today’s recommendation is the outcome an unprecedented alliance between the European water sector, the public health sector and the scientific community, with the Commission’s Joint Research Centre providing the necessary scientific know-how and infrastructure, and acting as an innovation uptake accelerator. This scientific push has enabled the Commission to take swift action in support of EU Member States’ continuing efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “The evolution and spread of variants of COVID-19 are a real threat to our effective response to the crisis. It is important that all available means are fully utilised to detect the virus and its variants, so as to provide appropriate and timely responses. The use of wastewater surveillance can provide a cost effective, rapid and reliable source of information which would assist us in combatting the virus. It is also a good example of the multiple benefits of modern environmental infrastructure to our health and well-being”.

It is crucial to support the sharing of best practices between Member States, but also with third countries that may not readily have access to such data.

The Commission will provide financial assistance to support wastewater surveillance activities and the systematic analysis of variants as well as to create a dedicated European exchange platform.

This Recommendation is part of a set of COVID-19 measures adopted today by the Commission as announced in the European preparedness plan entitled the ‘HERA Incubator’.

It builds on an EU Umbrella Initiative of the Commission collecting the knowledge and experience in Member States regarding the surveillance of COVID-19 and its variants in wastewaters.