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WA Department of Health begins wastewater testing in East Kimberley amid NT outbreak

The Northern Territory’s recent COVID-19 outbreak has prompted the WA Department of Health to begin testing wastewater for the virus in the East Kimberley.

The first wastewater samples were collected from Kununurra on Thursday and taken to Perth for testing by Pathwest, with negative results returned today.

Further sampling will start at Halls Creek on Saturday.

It comes after 25 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the NT over the past month, with several positive cases coming just 500km from Kununurra in Katherine.

WA Department of Health deputy chief health officer Dr Paul Armstrong said wastewater testing could provide an early warning of undiagnosed COVID-19 in the community.

“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.

Dr Armstrong said wastewater testing at treatment plants in the area would take place four times a week over the next fortnight before being reviewed, taking into account how the COVID-19 situation evolved in the Top End.

“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,” he said.

The wastewater surveillance program is overseen by the WA Department of Health in collaboration with the Water Corporation and PathWest.

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