Australia

Townsville testing underway to link mystery COVID-19 case

Authorities are scrambling to determine whether a Townsville woman contracted COVID-19 while still in Queensland, or upon her arrival to Victoria. Scientists will use genomic sequencing to compare wastewater samples from Townsville, where parts of the virus were found last week, with a swab from the woman to find out where the woman, in her…

Authorities are scrambling to determine whether a Townsville woman contracted COVID-19 while still in Queensland, or upon her arrival to Victoria.

Scientists will use genomic sequencing to compare wastewater samples from Townsville, where parts of the virus were found last week, with a swab from the woman to find out where the woman, in her 30s, had contracted the virus.

The Townsville woman arrived in Melbourne on October 7 to be with family while receiving medical treatment, and tested positive a few days later.

While Queensland Health authorities suspect it’s more likely the woman contracted the virus in Victoria, urgent contact tracing is underway for several Townsville locations, including Icon Cancer Centre, Mater Day Surgery and NQ Vascular.

The coronavirus scare comes after testing in sewage in Townsville revealed the deadly virus was present in the water system, which Health Minister Steven Miles said would explain the positive test result of the woman now in Melbourne.

At least 14 people have been placed in quarantine in north Queensland as a precaution and are awaiting their test results.

“We know health care environments are very risky,” Mr Steven Miles said.

“We’re being very, very cautious.

“She’s not showing any symptoms of COVID-19. That’s why it’s challenging for us to identify when she may have been infectious because she appears to be one of these asymptomatic cases.”

Queensland has just two active cases, the lowest number since July 21.

It comes as Queensland remains on high alert as virus cases continue to rise in NSW.

On Wednesday, NSW recorded 13 cases, including three where the source could not be traced. Victoria recorded 10, including one “mystery case”.

As part of the proposed road map to COVID-Normal, Queensland was expected to open its borders to NSW on November 1, provided the state recorded 28 days straight without any unlinked COVID-19 cases.

Queensland Health remains adamant a decision on whether the border opening goes ahead will be made in the last week of October, just in time for Queenslanders to head to the polls.

Chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young has routinely said decisions are made at the end of the month, and take into consideration the total number of cases, the location of infections, the general movement of people, and wastewater testing.

Usually outspoken on Queensland opening its borders back up, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday said the federal government had “never said” the state should take the border down.

“We’ve just said that if you have one (border), that has to be clear why it’s there, and you’ve got to run it in a way that’s fair,” he said from the LNP campaign trail in Townsville.

“It’s a decision that’s going to have to be made by the Queensland Government based on the medical advice, and the medical advice has to be transparent, and it should be very clear … there shouldn’t be double standards in terms of how these things are put in place.

“ … At some time, when it is safe to do so, you have to be able to lift the border.”

CONTACT TRACING

Queensland Health urges anyone who has been at any of the following locations to monitor their health, and get tested if they develop symptoms:

September 28, 4-5pm: Icon Cancer Centre, Townsville

September 29: Mater Day Surgery, Townsville

September 30, 1-2pm: NQ Vascular, Pimlico, Townsville

October 1: Mater Day Surgery, Townsville

October 3: Flight QF2302 Townsville to Cairns

October 6: Flight VA782 Cairns to Brisbane

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus.