Corona is rampant again in China, millions of people have become infected. Austria is therefore introducing a mandatory medical examination for people entering the country from the People’s Republic. Since Wednesday, the wastewater from aircraft has been examined for new virus variants. Malaysia has been doing this since June – and has come to a worrying conclusion.
From June to December 2022, sewage samples from 29 flights landing in the capital Kuala Lumpur were examined, according to the National Public Health Laboratory Malaysia. In addition, 301 samples from 15 locations representing each state were analyzed during the same period.
Coronaviruses in 28 of 29 samples
The result: “Sars-CoV-2 was detected in 288 samples, which is 95.7 percent of all flights,” the laboratory’s director-general, Noor Hisham Abdullah, told Malaysia’s Sinar Harian newspaper. In fact, in the samples from Kuala Lumpur, the coronavirus was found in 28 of the 29 samples taken – according to the laboratory, the investigation of the 29th has not yet been completed.
American doctor Eric Feigl-Ding therefore warns on Twitter: “We must assume that every flight carries Covid-19 as long as the pandemic rages.” wants to play roulette with Long Covid”. “Covid comes by plane,” Feigl-Ding emphasizes.
RNA fragments are found in the feces of infected people, regardless of their health status. They may be symptomatically or asymptomatically infected or have already recovered. The viruses are detectable in waste water, but Covid-19 cannot be transmitted in this way.
EU recommends wastewater monitoring
Sewage samples are taken from selected aircraft twice a week in Malaysia. The research in the lab serves as an early warning system: according to health director general Abdullah, the concentration of the virus in the samples can provide information about how widespread Covid-19 is in its places of origin. Wastewater monitoring directly at the airport is also recommended in the EU, and it has been implemented in Austria since Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Health. A sample is examined for new virus variants by means of sequencing. However, Health Minister Johannes Rauch is not worried that the corona situation in Austria will worsen.
“Many measures have been taken to quickly identify possible new virus variants and respond to them if necessary,” Rauch assured. The new entry regulation, which lays down the inspection requirement for travelers from China, is expected to come into effect next week. Rauch believes that mandatory testing before leaving China is the only sensible way to minimize the risk of introducing new virus variants. The PCR tests should be submitted and checked by the airlines before departure from China. The tests would be valid for 48 hours.
In addition, the Ministry of Health recommends wearing a face mask during the flight. There will be talks with the two airlines that offer direct flights from China to Austria. Information sheets for passengers would also be produced. Germany and other EU countries have taken similar measures.
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