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World Health Day: EU strengthens COVID-19 monitoring in Eastern Partner Countries

Country: Regional
Component: Environmental Data

Wastewater is a mirror of our civilization. The COVID-19 situation can be detected in wastewater earlier than by human testing. All EU Member States have taken rapid action and today around 1 370 wastewater treatment plants are under regular surveillance across the EU. To share the European knowhow, the European Commission asked the Environment Agency Austria to introduce wastewater monitoring to track the spreading of the virus and its variants in the Eastern Partner Countries. This monitoring brings decisive advantages to pandemic management and provides a cost-effective, early and reliable source of information for decision-making. In the framework of the EU4Environment Water and Data programme, the Environment Agency Austria is already preparing missions to the partner countries to strengthen the monitoring capacities on site. This is done in close cooperation with relevant EU institutions and other EU Member States.

The COVID-19 monitoring in wastewater can be used as an important early warning system in local sewage catchment areas to mitigate the spreading of the pandemic. The European experience of introducing such procedures is in demand, especially in the light of the war in Ukraine and the hosting of many refugees in the neighboring countries, such as the Republic of Moldova.

Low-cost early warning system

Since 2021, with the support of the European Union wastewater monitoring has become more mature across Europe as an early warning or de-warning system for tracking epidemics and pandemics. It includes a procedure for sampling, storage, transport, analysis, data evaluation, statistical forecasting and graphical dashboard reporting. Organized as a sentinel surveillance system, the regular collection of few samples from the catchment delivers good information at relatively low costs compared to extensive human testing. This system provides a picture of the epidemiological situation of a sewage catchment area approx. three to seven days earlier than human testing. Sequencing of the genetic code of the COVID-19 pathogen, and thus mutation analysis, is also possible to monitor the spreading of variants. The wastewater sample thus represents the infection status of a cross-section of a population and eases health authorities to adjust health protection measures.


To ensure that collected data is reliable, comparable and promptly shared with public health authorities, the EU installed an exchange platform, accessible under But the EU response to the Coronavirus health crisis reaches far beyond its borders. In total, the European Union mobilized over 2.5 billion Euros to support the Eastern Partner Countries in tackling the pandemic and socio-economic recovery.

Further strengthening water resources management and environmental data in Eastern Partner Countries

Within the EU4Environment – Water and Data in Eastern Partner Countries programme, strategies for the protection and careful use of water in the Eastern Partner Countries will be further developed and prepared for implementation in the period 2022-2024. The basis for these strategies are the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive, notably river basin planning, transboundary water cooperation and stakeholder involvement. In addition, environmental information on waste, land use, agriculture, air and water quality is being improved and access to this data is being made easier for decision-makers and citizens. Special new topics refer to the economic soundness of water strategies and policies (economic instruments, water accounting) and support through new finance mobilisation for innovative and low-cost solutions. Experts from the Environment Agency Austria, the ADA, the Office International de l’Eau (France), the UNECE and the OECD support the partner countries on behalf of the European Union. The programme is part of a Team Europe Initiative on water and zero pollution. 

Further information

Coronavirus monitoring of wastewater across EU countries:

Fact Sheet EU support to Eastern Partnership countries in tackling COVID-19: 

The EU-funded “EU4Environment – Water Resources and Environmental Data” Programme, launched in 2021, aims at supporting a more sustainable use of water resources and improving the use of sound environmental data ... Read more




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