A new project is successfully detecting traces of coronavirus in sewage water across the country, with sites in Aylesbury and Little Marlow being included in the testing.

The Government-led project, which was announced in June, has now proven that fragments of genetic material from the virus can be found in wastewater.

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Results can provide health professionals with a clearer picture of infection rates by identifying where there are high numbers, particularly for symptomless carriers and before people show symptoms.

Data will be shared with NHS Test and Trace and it will inform where new outbreaks may be happening.

It also means that public health leaders can speak directly to institutions where there may be spikes in infection.

Environment secretary George Eustice said: “This is a significant step forward in giving us a clearer idea of infection rates both nationally and locally, particularly in areas where there may be large numbers of people who aren’t showing any symptoms and therefore aren’t seeking tests.

“NHS Test and Trace is able to use the science to ensure local health leads are alerted and can take action.”

“We are continuing to look at how this programme can be refined as one of the many measures we’re using to slow the spread of the virus and protect local communities.”

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Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “This initiative is just one example of how we are working across government and with local partners to find innovative, new ways to track the outbreak, slow the spread of the virus and save lives.

“Monitoring and sampling wastewater offers another tool to help us identify outbreaks early on – helping NHS Test and Trace and local authorities target hotspots quickly and effectively.

“As we see an increase in cases across the country, it remains vitally important that everyone continues to follow Hands, Face and Space, gets a test and self-isolates if they display any coronavirus symptoms and follows the advice of NHS Test and Trace.”

Testing has now been rolled out across more 90 wastewater treatment sites in the UK.

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This includes 44 plants in England covering approximately 22 per cent of the population. There are plans to expand testing.

At the time of writing, 44, 347 people have died in the UK from coronavirus.