If Canada’s coronavirus lockdown eases, could sewage act as an early warning system?

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Sooner or later, governments across Canada will have to decide whether to ease lockdowns caused by the novel coronavirus.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau managed expectations Wednesday, saying that it will be “weeks more” before any relaxation is possible and warning that doing it too early could lead to dangerous new outbreaks.

But it’s clear that, at some point, a new balance will have to be struck between protecting Canadians’ livelihoods and protecting their lives. On Wednesday, Denmark reopened schools across the country for children 11 and under, for example.

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When that moment happens, how will we know that it was the right decision, and how would we get early warning if it turned out to be the wrong one?

Regular testing of sewage for the virus could tell us quickly if there were danger signs, an expert says.

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No country started testing sewage for the novel coronavirus more than a few months ago, and so far, the science isn’t able to say what a given community’s infection rate is based on traces of the virus in sewage.


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