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Stopping COVID-19 outbreaks for our neighbours using Australian wastewater testing know-how

Australian Lab Services workers demonstrating safe collecting procedures to Hai Phong Wastewater Utility in Vietnam.
Australian Lab Services workers demonstrating safe collecting procedures to Hai Phong Wastewater Utility in Vietnam. Photo: Australian Water Partnership

Surveillance of our wastewater, sewage and stormwater for traces of SARS-CoV-2 is something most Australians are now used to.

It's an early warning system that enables governments to implement health response actions more quickly and efficiently.

What's not commonly known is that since October 2020 Australia has been transferring the same technology and expertise to help our neighbours in Southeast Asia fight transmission in their own communities.

Starting with Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, our Australian water and health practitioners are helping transfer Australia's best-practice technology and knowledge in this space.

In the sub-Mekong these partnerships will make a profound difference for at-risk communities in metropolitan and remote rural areas where there is limited health services and poor infrastructure.

In Vietnam for example, the Australian approach is being piloted in Hai Phong Province, which contains Vietnam's largest international shipping port and a number of quarantine facilities.

Australian partners are working with the Hai Phong water utility and the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology to establish their new sampling and analysis program. This is helping Vietnam's Ministry of Health prepare a national surveillance program based on the leading Australian approach.

Since October 2020 the Australian Water Association in partnership with WaterRA have brought together practitioners from Australian Lab Services, South Australia Water and others to share knowledge and provide technical advice to establish standard operating procedures for sampling and laboratory setup.

When the work is complete in November 2021 the partnerships will have established stand-alone environmental surveillance capacity for each respective country to strengthen their health system and security during this pandemic, and for those into the future.

Administered by the Australian Water Partnership, this initiative is proudly delivered as part of a $60 million package of initiatives for ASEAN under Partnerships for Recovery, to help build a sustainable recovery across neighbouring Southeast Asia.

Partnerships are key to Australia's response to COVID-19 and to building a sustainable recovery.

Australia's development program is an investment in an open, prosperous and resilient Indo-Pacific. Through Partnerships for Recovery Australia continues to deliver timely, responsive and effective support to help our partners when and where it is needed most. Our efforts are concentrated on health security, stability and economic recovery in our nearest region, and supporting the most vulnerable.

With our neighbours, international partners, and civil society, we will respond to the impacts of this pandemic and protect and build on the development gains of the last decades.

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