The ongoing pandemic of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has led to a global surge in laboratory testing for the virus. The gold standard approach to detecting an active viral infection is the use of RT-qPCR. This approach requires the isolation of viral RNA from respiratory specimens, such as nasopharyngeal swabs. We developed a method using a widely available lysis buffer coupled with solid-phase reverse immobilization (SPRI) beads to extract viral RNA from swabs collected in viral transport medium (VTM) which can be performed manually or on a Hamilton STAR liquid-handling robot. Using a WHO recommended, laboratory-developed RT-qPCR for SARS-CoV-2, we validated this method in a CAP-accredited laboratory, against the IVD-labelled bioMérieux NucliSENS easyMAG automated extraction platform. Our method demonstrates a comparable sensitivity and specificity, making it suitable for large-scale testing and monitoring of suspected COVID-19 cases and healthcare workers. This is especially important as the world faces critical shortages of viral RNA extraction reagents for the existing commercial extraction systems.