At its meeting on 12 November 2020, the NPHET endorsed a paper “SARS-CoV-2 wastewater surveillance in Ireland” and recommended that the NVRL and HPSC work collaboratively to implement a national wastewater surveillance network for SARS-CoV-2. The paper is available online: https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/691330-national-public-health-emergency-team-covid-19-coronavirus/#november
Wastewater surveillance involves the analysis of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material in sewage samples which will capture both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals in the community, providing an early warning system that will identify when SARS-CoV-2 levels are increasing in the community. This type of enhanced surveillance doesn't provide much additional information when there are high levels of virus circulating, but it can be an effective early warning system when there are low levels of circulating virus in the community.
An inter-agency wastewater surveillance group has been established and it is meeting weekly. Sampling is already being undertaken in Dublin and there is a plan in place to expand sampling to more than 60 wastewater treatment plants across all 26 counties.