25 December 2021

COVID-19 wastewater testing expanded in Western Australian communities

WA Health is expanding wastewater surveillance in response to the evolving COVID-19 situation in the State.

Testing across all six metropolitan wastewater treatment plants will be increased to twice a week. There will also be twice-weekly sample testing in all seven Beenyup water sub-catchments.

The WA Department of Health’s Acting Chief Health Officer, Dr Paul Armstrong said the increased testing regimen was part of the multi-pronged WA Health effort to track the virus, which was especially important in light of the five new COVID-19 cases which had been confirmed today, stemming from case #1133, the man in his 20s who tested positive yesterday (December 23).

Anyone who has been to one of the exposure sites listed on the HealthyWA website is urged to follow the listed health advice.

Anyone who has not been to an exposure site, but who feels unwell with cold or flu symptoms (cough, sore throat, fever, runny nose) is urged to stay home and contact their local clinic. It is possible they might need to get a COVID-19 test even if there are no COVID-19 cases in their local community.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the Northern Territory, wastewater surveillance will be undertaken in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in the Goldfields.

Samples will be collected at several locations in the region and then taken to PathWest for testing.

Dr Armstrong said while there are currently no cases of COVID-19 in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, there were concerns about the border communities in the Northern Territory.

“Testing wastewater can help track COVID-19 infections in the community and provide early warning of cases,” Dr Armstrong said.

“Specifically, samples may detect COVID-19 in the community that either hasn’t been diagnosed yet, or from people who have recently recovered from the disease and are no longer infectious.”

He said wastewater testing in the Lands would be carried out over the next four weeks and then reviewed, taking into consideration any developments in the NT at the time.

WA Health has also confirmed that wastewater testing in Kununurra and Halls Creek would be extended for a further six months following an initial four-week trial.

The program will incorporate the Warmun community due to its proximity to Buntine Highway which connects Warmun to Katherine and Timber Creek in the NT where outbreaks are active.

“Targeted wastewater surveillance in high-risk areas can provide additional information about COVID-19 in these locations and forms an integral part of the ongoing public health pandemic response,” Dr Armstrong said.

WA Health is engaging with relevant local communities regarding wastewater testing.

The WA SARS-CoV-2 wastewater surveillance program is a collaboration between the WA Department of Health, Water Corporation and PathWest.


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