NSW’s COVID sewage testing wins award

The world-first sewage testing program that has helped detect COVID-19 early has won the Research and Development Excellence Award at the NSW Water Awards.

The spread-stopping sewage surveillance program, a collaborative project by NSW Health and Sydney Water, detects molecular markers of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – in sewage.

The innovative surveillance program has tested over 1700 wastewater samples and found over 120 positive results since its implementation in July 2020 and has since been replicated in other states.

NSW Health’s Director of Health Protection, Dr Richard Broome, said the sewage testing program provided a crucial extra level of surveillance at a population level. The program had detected results from sewage that aligned closely with known cases of COVID-19, giving confidence in its reliability and sensitivity.

“The work being done by both the NSW Health Water Unit and Sydney Water cannot be understated – it’s been a key element of our response to the global pandemic,” Dr Broome said.

“To have their work be recognised and awarded is very humbling but truly well deserved.

“While we have now had several weeks of no locally acquired cases, COVID-19 remains a threat and this testing can provide an early warning in places without recent known cases.”

As of Thursday 4 March, NSW had no new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 – the 46th consecutive day without a locally acquired case.

As always, if you have the mildest of symptoms please come forward to get tested. Please visit here to find your nearest testing clinic or contact your GP.

For the latest information on COVID-19 please visit the NSW Health website.