The NSW Health COVID-19 Research Program was established in April 2020 to contribute to minimising the health, social and economic impacts of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in New South Wales (NSW). This paper describes the establishment and implementation of one element of the Program, the Emergency Response Priority Research (Emergency Response) workstream, which is focused on the rapid creation of evidence to support urgent operational work for the public health management of COVID-19 in NSW.
Evidence from the nine Emergency Response projects described in this study has contributed directly to informing the NSW public health response to the pandemic. For example, findings from a study of COVID-19 transmission in schools and childcare settings in the early stages of the pandemic informed decisions around the resumption of on-campus education in 2020 and helped shape policy around higher risk activities to help reduce transmission in education settings. Similarly, findings from a project to validate methods for identifying SARS-CoV-2 virus fragments in wastewater were subsequently incorporated into the NSW Sewage Surveillance Program, which continues to provide NSW Health with information to support targeted messaging and testing.
The approach to establishing and implementing the Emergency Response work-stream highlights the importance of continuing to ensure a well-trained public health research community and actively supporting a collaborative research sector.