Western Cape Minister of Health chief Dr Keith Cloete. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Western Cape Minister of Health chief Dr Keith Cloete. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Western Cape hails wastewater monitoring for presence of Covid-19

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Jan 16, 2021

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Cape Town - The Western Cape Health Department has said the institutionalisation of the monitoring of wastewater for the presence of Covid-19 would put it in good stead for the next wave and early detection of the virus.

This was revealed by the department's head, Keith Cloete, when he briefed the health portfolio committee on health earlier this week on Covid-19 and health-related matters.

Cloete told the MPs that since the outbreak of the pandemic, they had set themselves up to get a world-class intelligence system.

"It was about setting a data system to be able to track where infections happen and respond," he said about the provincial health data centre. He said the centre pre-dated the Covid-19 pandemic.

"It is an electronic data centre that imports from multiple places and is put together to produce intelligence. Out of that we can draw reports," Cloete said.

Some of the reports produced from the data centre included reports on hospitalisation, deaths, health-care workers, mapping where Covid-19 infections cases were, beds, admissions and lists of individual case summaries.

Cloete told the MPs they also draw data from the Medical Research Council on excess, which they import into their system so they can cross align their reported deaths with data from the Home Affairs Department and people's IDs.

He said wastewater surveillance was a very innovative system.

"It is where we actually via municipalities track the level of Covid in wastewater monitoring. We draw all that together to inform management of cases."

He said that municipalities currently at their wastewater plants have a mechanism to measure the content and volume in the water of the presence of Covid.

The Cape Town Metro had been doing the monitoring the longest in its wastewater plants. It included Klipheuwel, Wesfleur, Scottsdene, Zandvliet and Kraaifontein.

"All the areas are in the northern and eastern areas. As you can see, there is still significant Covid there," Cloete said, showing a slide on triangulating with wastewater.

"What has been very good with this system is whenever we had high cases, the wastewater has corroborated that because it showed us that also, but the interesting thing is in the metro actually there are lower levels than before around the airport area and all recreational facilities.

"That was in keeping with the new regulations and restriction of movement of people that those areas are also lower."

He also said the Breede Valley used to show a high level of Covid-19, but it came down.

Touws River and De Doorns were up, in line with reported cases .

In the Overberg, there were increased cases which were very much in line with reported cases.

"This has been a very useful system for us," Cloete said. "This is a very sensitive early warning system that there might be pockets of cases. This system will stand us in good stead for a potential next wave and early detection once it is completely institutionalised.“

Political Bureau

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