New monitoring tactics was released by the Chinese government last week, and it included "sewage surveillance," a method that has been used in large cities like Beijing and Shenzhen. China has now caught up to those nations that have been using wastewater monitoring as a coronavirus early warning system since the beginning of the outbreak.

As China prepares for the disease's management to be reduced from class A to class B on Sunday (Jan 8), moving from zero-COVID to living with the coronavirus, the guidelines asked local governments to analyze household wastewater flowing into water treatment plants.

According to experts, the information would help with pandemic planning and the targeting of a focused response by revealing community infection rates and the dynamic distribution of variants of special concern.

This occurred at the same time as a task force of the State Council, China's Cabinet, announced that sewage surveillance will begin on an "explorative" basis in cities with adequate conditions. As crucial markers of new waves and variants, local governments should monitor changes in positive case rates, viral loads, and genomic sequencing, it was recommended.

Some work has previously been done in a number of mainland Chinese cities, according to Zhang Tong, chair professor of the University of Hong Kong's civil engineering department.

As one of the pioneers of the methodology, Zhang oversaw the testing of the 2020 HKU pilot program for sewage surveillance in Hong Kong. The city's government agencies and academic institutions, he claimed, had been "in close contact" with their equivalents on the mainland.

The latest directive stated that authorities should also keep an eye on "changes in virus genomic sequence" to identify potential variants. This is of great concern as COVID-19 surges across the nation in the wake of the abrupt lifting of pandemic restrictions last month.

Previous sewage testing trials focused on evaluating the size of outbreaks. Health officials reported that up to 130 sub-lineages of the Omicron variation have been found in China in the last three months and that more mutations will be found as the sickness spreads.

China will also abandon the final of its zero-COVID regulations on Sunday, opening its borders and eliminating all inbound quarantine restrictions. Given that reinfection has been widespread throughout the world, scientists anticipate that the new strains will be more contagious and cause subsequent waves of diseases.

She claimed that since there is typically a lag between becoming infected and exhibiting symptoms and when the individual seeks testing, sewage data can reveal infections earlier than clinical data from test results. After the National Health Commission made recommendations in March of last year on tracking wastewater for the spread of the coronavirus, China first began to consider sewage monitoring.