Australia

Sydney sewage test raises outbreak fears

Health authorities have called on residents in Sydney’s upper north shore to come forward for testing, after a sewage test found traces of the virus in the area.NSW’s sewage surveillance program detected traces of COVID-19 at a treatment plant in Hornsby Heights, sparking concerns the virus may have spread further than what is currently being…

Health authorities have called on residents in Sydney’s upper north shore to come forward for testing, after a sewage test found traces of the virus in the area.

NSW’s sewage surveillance program detected traces of COVID-19 at a treatment plant in Hornsby Heights, sparking concerns the virus may have spread further than what is currently being detected.

The virus fragments were detected in samples taken on Saturday, with that system services parts of Berowra, Cowan, Berowra Heights, Hornsby Heights, Mount Colah, Mount Kuring-Gai, Asquith and Hornsby.

“NSW Health is aware of two recent COVID-19 positive cases in the area which are linked to the Avalon cluster, but as a precaution we continue to ask the community to be alert and present for testing,” NSW Health said.

NSW recorded another drop in cases on Tuesday, with just eight locally acquired infections confirmed to 8pm last night.

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Seven of those cases have been linked to the Avalon cluster, which is now at 90 cases, and one case still under investigation.

Health authorities are working to determine whether this infection could be linked to an overseas case.

“Thee case that is under investigation is a health care worker from western Sydney who was involved in the transfer of patients from the international airport,” chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said on Tuesday.

“This case has transported several patients but we have identified that they also have transferred positive COVID cases.

“We are obviously doing urgent genome sequencing to confirm that that is the source of their infection and those results will be available later today.”

Dr Chant said a close contact of the worker has also tested positive to COVID-19 and will be included in tomorrow’s daily figures.

More than 44,400 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 8pm last night, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian praising residents for turning out in such high numbers to get tested

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It comes as NSW recorded 15 new COVID-19 infections on Monday after more than 38,000 tests were conducted the day before.

The northern beaches has been placed on lockdown, with residents only allowed to leave their homes for four essential reasons.

Restrictions around gatherings and venue limits have also been reintroduced across Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong.

Yesterday, Ms Berejiklian praised NSW residents for the drop in cases but warned it didn’t mean there would be no restrictions in place for Christmas.

She said key decisions around gathering rules would be announced on Wednesday morning after authorities reviewed all aspects of the outbreak.

“Look, unfortunately, one day’s results doesn’t tell us it’s a trend,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Obviously, we have halved the number of cases overnight, but in a pandemic, there is a level of volatility, so we’ll closely monitor what happens obviously to 8pm tonight and we’ll be making a final call on Wednesday morning.”

The Premier conducting 38,000 tests in a 24 hour period was a great achievement and provides confidence that there isn’t a large number of cases going undetected in the community.

“However, this is an ongoing and evolving situation and we know how contagious the virus is,” she said.

“I appreciate how frustrating it is, and I would love to be able to tell everybody today what Christmas might look like in New South Wales or the Northern Beaches. But we’re not in a position to do that yet.

“And I appreciate the community has been extremely patient, but I also appreciate, I think that the community understands our position. We want to make sure that we keep people healthy. We also want to make sure that we reduce that social isolation and don’t allow people to have adverse mental health consequences because of what Christmas or New Year’s might look like for them.”

It comes as Victoria confirmed that Sydney’s cluster had crossed the border.

On Tuesday, Victorian health authorities confirmed the interstate infection was a 15-year-old girl from Moonee Valley who had visited several of the high-risk exposure sites in Sydney.

“The young person travelled home from Sydney with their parent,” Health Minister Martin Foley said.

“They have isolated when they returned to Victoria and as a result of the awareness of the situation in Sydney, the young person has sought testing.”

He said close contacts “are currently understood to be limited” and contact tracing is underway.

“All close contacts of the family have been interviewed and the Department of Health is following up with any secondary close contacts,” he said.

“Rapid response testing for all of those close contacts is underway. All close contacts will be compulsorily retested on day 11. Given the family were isolating at home, at this point, there are no known exposure sites in Victoria.”

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