Quebec’s Health Department has begun releasing data on the presence of COVID-19 in wastewater.

The government says the data can provide early warning of new pandemic waves or the emergence of new variants.

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Quebec has been screening wastewater for COVID-19 in Quebec City and the Montreal area since late March but only began releasing the data Wednesday.

The seven-day average of wastewater collections suggests a decline in the concentration of COVID-19 in wastewater in Quebec City, while in Montreal, the data suggests a stable concentration.

Dominic Frigon, a McGill University civil engineering professor who helped develop Quebec’s wastewater screening program, says the data can be useful for detecting trends but adds that COVID-19 levels in wastewater don’t directly correlate to case counts.

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Frigon says wastewater data can also be affected by other factors, such as rain, which dilutes the sewage for testing.

The federal government has been publishing wastewater screening data — including for the Montreal area — online since early May 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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