Sewage in five NWT communities will now be routinely monitored for signs of Covid-19, a move the territory says can help identify the virus more than a week faster than reliance on other methods.
Sampling wastewater in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith, Inuvik, and Fort Simpson will cover half of the NWT’s population and “serve as an early warning system for the territory,” the GNWT said on Thursday.
Equipment to begin automatic sampling in those communities, at regular intervals, is expected to arrive in the NWT by the end of September. $100,000 to pay for the equipment came from Indigenous Services Canada.
“Our territory is using every tool at our disposal,” said Premier Caroline Cochrane.
In a news release, the NWT government said sampling sewage “has been found to uncover trends of Covid-19 in the community four to 10 days earlier than clinical data would by detecting the presence of the virus in asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic populations.”
However, the territory said sewage that tests positive won’t automatically indicate there is active Covid-19 transmission – or mean aggressive countermeasures are triggered.
“The presence of Covid-19 in wastewater samples alone will not result in aggressive containment measures as it could be connected to imported travel cases being appropriately isolated,” the news release stated.
“However, collecting this information can serve as an early warning system for the territory and help the health and social services system target advice to communities as the pandemic continues.
“The chief public health officer would alert the public regarding positive wastewater results and provide applicable guidance at that time.”