Project Number # 2068
This project will form the Mekong node of the Collaboration on Sewage Surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 “ColoSSoS” project. WaterRA and AWA identified that technology transfer within Australia’s broader region was a logical extension of the local project and the parties have been in regular liaison on this since mid-February 2020.
This project will transfer leading Australian innovation in the environmental surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 to support the Governments of five countries in the Mekong River Delta (including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand) to prepare, respond and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will establish partnerships between Australia and these five countries and transfer SARS-CoV-2 environmental surveillance methods established in Australia by Water Research Australia and partners. The transfer of these methods will support each Government’s efforts to monitor SARS-CoV-2 prevalence in water environments (primarily sewage and stormwater), to inform COVID-19 control strategies of the Governments and add to their COVID-19 resilience planning toolbox.
Through developing the set-up for potential cost-effective earlier warning detection systems for COVID-19 outbreaks in each country, the project will support long term strengthening of health security, systems, stability, social cohesion and economic recovery across the Mekong region.
It is expected that participating Mekong countries will have sufficient capacity and are utilising the methods prior to the likely scenario of a vaccine being mass produced in the second half of 2021. The program has been structured so that, should a vaccine be mass produced, the methods can be effectively and efficiently used for another emerging pathogen or virus outbreak or another purpose such as identification of illegal narcotic use hotspots.
The development of capability and understanding during this process will build capability in-country and aims to provide on-ground ability for fast adoption in light of new ‘outbreaks’ we might observe in future. Not only will it enhance in-country capability and capacity to respond now and in the future, but also create strong and robust networks of water, government, health and scientific expertise to continue collaborations in future.
The project is structured in two Phases to manage the cost, risk and timing of deliverables to ensure relevance in a constantly changing COVID-19 world.
Phase 1 will lay foundations for each country to implement the methods should Phase 2 not proceed. Phase 2 is designed to bolster capacity of each country to support a strong enabling environment whereby the methods can play a key role in future government decision making regarding COVID-19 and other pandemics.
Phase 2 will build on the Phase 1 outputs and outcomes to pilot the methods in each country, strengthen the capacity of the relevant in-country partners to roll out the methods country-wide and ensure the information generated is integrated within and supporting central governments COVID-19 control measures.
Whilst Phase 1 and 2 are interlinked to maximise overall impact within the shortest possible timeframe (12-18 months from commencement), Phase 1 will produce sufficient outputs to allow each country to implement the methods on their own right, regardless of Phase 2 funding.
Above images courtesy of Thailand Department of Disease Control