Researchers from Swansea University have developed a unique device that can detect COVID-19 in common wastewater.
This new sampling unit will be designed to provide real-time identification of the disease, meaning communities could be alerted if there is a suspected outbreak in their area.
The research, from the Institute for Innovative Materials, Processing and Numerical Technologies (IMPACT), seeks to support authorities with early detection by monitoring wastewater in sewerage. To do this, the research team have adapted existing sensor technology to create a novel unattended, automated, and continuous sampling unit.
The innovative kit has a multi-analytic probe design that will house various intelligent sensors and will be capable of continuously collecting and processing samples. The probe will be positioned in raw sewage, before it is treated, to record COVID-19 viral signature levels. Made from recycled plastic, the device housing is 3D printed and designed to be mass produced.
To date, no standard methods have been established for detecting the virus in wastewater. However, adapting the team’s existing sensor technology means researchers can identify disease biomarkers, including COVID-19, based on a resistance change in the active sensor surface.
Project lead Dr Sarper Sarp comments: ‘The vision is for this system to be fully integrated within the existing Wales sewer network, creating a real-time country-wide surveillance system that is linked via a wireless mesh network. The captured data will be subject to AI based analytics to provide a traffic light system, designating individual suburbs, areas, or regions as red, yellow, or green zones depending on the levels of COVID-19 found.’
The sensors used in the system will be based on existing graphene bio-sensing technology, already used for the successful detection of the hepatitis B virus but recalibrated to detect COVID-19. The fully integrated system will be tested and verified in a laboratory using wastewater samples provided by Welsh Water, in readiness for commercial roll-out.
Dr Sarper Sarp continues: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that knowledge gaps on the scale of viral infection within a population can translate into weeks of delay in taking measures for its effective control – leading to the subsequent knock-on effects for public health and the economy. Already in North Wales we have seen hotspots of activity affecting hundreds of meat factory workers but without the capability of measuring the spread of the virus in real time.
This project will integrate continuous monitoring to create an early-warning sewage surveillance system against COVID-19 outbreaks.’
The research team includes Professor Paul Rees, Professor Owen Guy, Dr Sanjiv Sharma and Research Assistants Dr. Ffion Walters, Mr. Jack Smith, and Mr. Louis Giron – with industry partners Biovici.
The project is funded through the Sêr Cymru Tackling COVID-19 programme. The IMPACT operation is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and Swansea University.
Lead image: The innovative kit has a multi-analytic probe design that will house various intelligent sensors and will be capable of continuously collecting and processing samples. (Image: Swansea University)
Wales extends COVID-19 testing throughout July
Welsh Health Minister, Eluned Morgan has confirmed that access to free LFD tests will be extended in Wales until July 31st 2022.
Tests will be available to the public that are showing symptoms of coronavirus (high temperature a new, continuous cough, a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste), alongside free access for people visiting someone eligible for new COVID-19 treatments.
The announcement comes following a rise in cases, with The Office for National Statistics recent survey reporting an increase in cases across the UK. An estimated 1 in 45 people in Wales currently have COVID-19.
The emergence of the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are also contributing to this increase as they become more dominant across the UK.
The health minister has also announced the following testing will continue to be in place –
- LFD and PCR testing for those eligible for COVID-19 treatments.
- PCR testing for COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses for symptomatic care home residents and prisoners.
- PCR and LFD testing under the patient testing framework and when clinically advised including pre-operative hospital patients and care home residents returning from inpatient hospital stays
- LFD testing for symptomatic health and social care staff.
- Twice weekly LFD tests for asymptomatic testing for health and social care staff
- Those visiting people in care homes should continue to test using tests provided by the care home they are visiting.
Self-isolation payments of £500 will end on 30th June 2022, whilst the COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Enhancement scheme will be extended until 31st August 2022 to support social care staff to stay away from work due to testing positive.
Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, said: “Testing has been an effective tool in breaking the chain of transmission and with an increase in cases its vital that we keep testing in place to protect the most vulnerable in our society. As we have seen before, Covid can quickly change, I am announcing this extension in response to the changing picture and new variants of concern.
“I would also ask people to take protective measures to protect the more vulnerable in the community, wear masks in health and care settings, stay at home if you test positive, and take up the offer for the vaccine. We know that the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, I would urge those eligible to have their spring booster if they have not already had it, the booster is available until June 30.
“Covid has not gone away, whilst we are learning to live safely with it, we will continue to monitor the situation and as we have done for the last two years, we will work together to Keep Wales Safe.”
Coronavirus regulations to end in Wales
First Minister Mark Drakeford today said Wales can look forward to a brighter future, as the last remaining coronavirus protections in law come to an end.
After more than two years of living with coronavirus regulations, these will expire on Monday May 30 when the requirement to wear a face covering in health and care settings ends.
But the Welsh Government will continue to recommend people take simple steps to protect their health – including wearing face coverings in health and care settings – as Wales moves beyond the emergency response to the pandemic.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The pandemic has had a profound impact on all our lives – everyone has made sacrifices and changes over the last two years. But it is thanks to all your efforts that we can move beyond the emergency response while still living safely with this virus.
“I want to thank everyone for all you have done to protect yourselves and your loved ones. You have followed the rules and you have kept Wales safe.
“This three-week review of the coronavirus regulations is a significant milestone – we are completing our careful and gradual transition away from legal protections and away from the emergency response to the pandemic.”
The public health situation is continuing to improve in Wales – results from recent ONS Coronavirus Infection Surveys show the number of people with Covid-19 is falling.
But in the past week, the four UK chief medical officers have warned about the risk from new variants – BA.4 and BA.5.
The First Minister said Wales will remain alert to these and is ready to scale up testing and vaccination arrangements once again if the public health situation changes.
He added: “We remain alert to the threat of new and emerging variants, and we will be ready to respond if we see a rapid spread of the virus, causing widespread harm.
“Continuing to take simple steps, including staying up to date with vaccinations; self-isolating if you have Covid-19 symptoms and maintaining good hand hygiene, will be important in helping us all to enjoy a safer and brighter future together.”
From Monday 30 May, the legal requirement to wear a face covering in health and care settings will end. This follows the outcome of the three-weekly review of coronavirus regulations and completes a gradual, phased easing of legal restrictions since January.
Over the last three weeks the public health situation has continued to improve, with the latest results from the ONS Coronavirus Infection Survey showing the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus in Wales is falling.
The number of Covid-19 related patients has also fallen to less than 700 and is at its lowest level since 28 December 2021, although the NHS remains under pressure from a combination of emergency and pandemic pressures with a significant number of staff absences.
New COVID vaccination centre opens at Aberavon Shopping Centre
A new COVID vaccination centre for Port Talbot is opening at Aberavon Shopping Centre.
Situated next door to B&M, near the river bridge entrance, Swansea Bay Health Board say it will provide vaccinations to adults and children alike.
The first clinic will be held at the Local Vaccination Centre (LVC) on Thursday, May 26th. Slots will be available by appointment only for the time being.
The health board are asking people not to telephone the shopping centre if they want to make an appointment or if they have a general query. The health board’s booking centre can be contacted on 01792 200492 or 01639 862323.
The opening comes as the health board winds down its vaccination operation at the Bay Field Hospital near Amazon, off Fabian Way, which has been open since the first Covid vaccine was rolled out to health and social care staff in December 2020.
The final Covid vaccination clinic will be held at the Bay Mass Vaccination Centre on Wednesday, June 1st.
Blood tests will continue on that site for the time being.
Covid vaccination clinics will also continue to be scheduled at Canolfan Gorseinon Centre, in the health board’s container in the car park of Morrisons supermarket on Baglan Industrial Park and on the Immbulance mobile vaccination clinic, which stops at various venues across the Swansea Bay area.
Interim Head of Transformation, James Ruggiero, said the move to the shopping centre signals a wider change in the Covid vaccination programme.
“The Bay has been absolutely brilliant for us but thankfully, we no longer need a permanent venue of that size.
“While no one can predict exactly what will happen in the future, we do know that some people, particularly those who are vulnerable, will need Covid boosters to help maintain a level of protection against the coronavirus, which is still out there.
“This new venue is perfect for that and a bonus is that being smaller and less intimidating, it can also be used to host clinics for children aged five to 11.”
Mr Ruggiero added: “Our teams have worked hard to set up this new convenient unit and to make it as comfortable and efficient as possible.
“We hope the public welcome it and enjoy popping to the other shops to pick up a bargain once they’ve come in for their vaccination.”
The Aberafan Shopping Centre LVC will be open between 9.30am and 4.30pm. Vaccinations are on an appointment-only basis for now.
The first vaccinations will be for the spring booster which, in line with JCVI guidance, is being given to those aged 75 and over, older care home residents and those aged 12 and over who are immunosuppressed.
The health board will shortly be announcing clinic dates for those aged five to 11 in June.
A Covid booster programme is due to run in the autumn, with interim JCVI advice saying that Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults; Frontline health and social care workers; All those 65 years of age and over; and adults aged 16 to 65 years in a clinical risk group should each receive one dose.
(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)
New report reveals Swansea would see ‘very high benefit’ from full 5G rollout – but Government policy and regulation changes needed first
Winner winner, weekday dinners: Morrisons introduces midweek dinners for under a fiver in its cafés
Four men fined £6,000 for ‘barbaric’ illegal foul hook fishing
Aer Lingus restarts Cardiff to Belfast flights
Severn Rail Tunnel to close for engineering works
£48m ‘gap funding’ support package for Welsh bus industry
64% of Wales employees set to leave due to cost of living
Welsh insulation company partners with Swansea University to explore capturing carbon emissions
Plans for Vascular Hybrid Theatre at Morriston Hospital get a major boost
Tyson Fury comes to Swansea as Ware-house Gym celebrates first anniversary
Twelve men arrested in cannabis raids in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot
Joe’s Ice Cream to celebrate 100th birthday with rebrand and grand reopening
Major Swansea road closures announced as city prepares to welcome back airshow
Everything you need to know about the JCP Swansea Half Marathon ahead of race day
Port Talbot school’s shipping container shop lets people ‘pay what they can’ to combat cost of living crisis
Engineering and technology trailblazers including Swansea University doctor shortlisted ahead of prestigious Engineering Talent Awards
Specialist police to patrol Swansea’s beaches and parks this Summer
Tower crane helping transform former nightclub site
Council awarded over £8m for new cycle and walking routes in Swansea
Swansea school children set to receive IT equipment thanks to DVLA
Sketty6 days ago
Agreement on new Singleton Park lighting will keep students safe say Student Union
Uncategorized4 days ago
Swansea 7 year-old girl badly burned by buried disposable BBQ on beach
Llanelli6 days ago
Commonwealth Games baton relay to visit Carmarthenshire
Ammanford6 days ago
Man who filmed rape of Ammanford woman on victim’s phone jailed for 10 years
Food & Drink2 days ago
Proposal to ban tea and coffee for under 16s in Wales branded ‘illiberal’
Charity5 days ago
Action for Children and Swansea Council unveil new caravans for supported families
FlixBus1 day ago
Swansea coach operator joins FlixBus network
Swansea Bay NHS5 days ago
£2.5m investment aims to help tackle hospital waiting lists in Swansea Bay by expanding care after surgery