Scientists from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) wastewater surveillance team are reporting a decline in concentrations of COVID-19 fragments in the majority of wastewater treatment plants.

“We are seeing this pattern of levelling or declining concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA fragments in 89% of the wastewater treatment plants we are monitoring in urban areas including Buffalo City, Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay,” said Professor Angela Mathee, who is a member of the team.

In addition, she said 97% of wastewater treatment plants in rural areas in Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape are also showing a similar pattern.

The SAMRC’s wastewater surveillance team undertakes weekly sampling and analysis of wastewater from 72 wastewater treatment plants located in urban and rural areas across four provinces to support the management of COVID-19 in South Africa. These are situated in Gauteng, Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

“The declining concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA fragments in wastewater corroborate what we’re seeing with COVID-19 cases around the country,” said Dr Renée Street, who plays a lead role in the team.

She cautioned, however, that while the levels of COVID-19 fragments are declining, they remain high and a cause for public health concern.

SAMRC President Glenda Gray has described this decrease as “very encouraging”.

“But this should not be viewed as an indication that we may drop our guard,” she warned.

Gray said human behaviour such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds and gatherings, holding essential gatherings outdoors or in well-ventilated spaces and hand hygiene are pivotal in controlling COVID-19 waves.

She also urged all to persist with these recommended and effective practices, especially during the current holiday season.

The Professor called on the nation to vaccinate, and for those who are eligible to take booster shots.

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Thursday that there has been a decrease in daily case numbers and percentage of people testing positive in Gauteng.

In addition, the NICD said infections are dropping in Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga.

Source: South African Government News Agency