Following on from the successes of the Mekong node of the ColoSSoS program, WaterRA entered into another project with the Australian Water Association to provide knowledge transfer and capacity building services to the Water Authority of Fiji.
The techniques developed in Australia have now been trialed in both low prevalence case settings as well as during the height of the Australian outbreaks and can be confidently adapted and applied in these scenarios in Suva, Fiji.
The project has been structured in a similar way to ColoSSoS Mekong, with SA Water providing both utility and laboratory expertise to developed tailored sampling and analysis protocols. Australian health departments will also be engaged in a formal capacity to provide tailored advice to Fijian counterparts.
The international work to date has seen the application of SARS-CoV-2 detection and analysis practices outside of Australia in the Mekong region, through the sharing of tools, protocols, and best practice skills, and knowledge. These wastewater monitoring techniques will remain relevant if new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerge globally, and current global and Australian research efforts focus on the identification of new strains in the community and ports of entry, as well as the quantification of proportions of these variants within community populations. Its use in Fiji will provide the heath agency with valuable information to make critical decisions to protect the community.
To date, Project Delivery Group have established working relationships between Australian and Fijian laboratory and utility partners. Health agency connections are currently also being established, and work is underway to specify laboratory equipment and consumables, some of which will be shipped to Fiji by the project team. Furthermore, tailored guidelines and protocols are being written for use by Fijian counterparts and first drafts of these are expected to be completed by the end of April 2022.
WaterRA’s continued involvement in these projects has provided our Australian Members an opportunity to elevate their international profile through DFAT-funded collaborations under the umbrella of the Australian Water Partnership. Furthermore, this sharing of Australian knowledge and skills supports Australia’s regional response to the ever-evolving Covid-19 situation, providing tools and strategies to help protect communities both in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.
Images courtesy Water Authority of Fiji