Miners help detect COVID-19

WESTERN Australia’s government is enlisting the help of the state’s fly-in, fly-out workers in a research study testing targeted groups of people who have no COVID-19 symptoms, to determine if the virus has spread in the community.
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WA has recorded no new cases of COVID-19 in the past week.

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As part of the DETECT - defining and monitoring the prevalence of SARS CoV2 in the community - program the government is testing groups including students, teachers, health care workers and police to check community spread and uncover possible undetected transmissions.

Through the FIFO DETECT program led by Curtin University and the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, COVID-19 testing will be done on asymptomatic FIFO workers from Mineral Resources, Rio Tinto and BHP, with up to 30,000 tests to be carried out over the life of the project.

WA premier Mark McGowan said the research being undertaken through Curtin University had been carefully considered by the Office of the Chief Health Officer and it was hoped the findings will benefit others in the broader community.

The FIFO worker testing is the second pillar of the DETECT program, after it was rolled out at 80 public schools across WA on May 1.

WA health minister Roger Cook said while the number of COVID-19 cases was very low in WA this was not the time to become complacent and people should continue to adopt social distancing and good hand hygiene.

He said the program would give people further confidence that the government was on top of the COVID-19 virus and fully committed to finding out all it can about it.

FIFO DETECT is being funded through a COVID-19 resources research fund set up by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, with contributors to the $500,000 fund including AngloGold Ashanti, BHP, CITIC Pacific, Fortescue Metals, Glencore, Perenti, Regis Resources, Roy Hill and Rio Tinto.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA CEO Paul Everingham said the opportunity to use screening processes throughout the sector to contribute to learning more about the virus was enormous.

"The WA resources sector is extremely supportive of including FIFO workers in the DETECT Project as it aligns with the sector's commitment to keep its workforce and the wider community safe," he said.

"The testing conducted through the study will act as an additional layer within industry's suite of measures to further protect our workforce and the communities in which we operate from the risks posed by COVID-19."

Everingham said the study would position WA as a world leader in identifying prevalence in essential cohorts and inform broader academic research by providing valuable insight into the COVID-19 virus.