Wastewater testing in Queensland’s north has turned up traces of COVID-19 in what authorities say is a worrying development as the state reports one new case of the virus.
The positive case, a man in his 20s, had recently returned from the Philippines and had been in hotel quarantine for 10 days when he was diagnosed with COVID-19, authorities said.
The state’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles on Saturday said traces of the virus had been detected in Townsville’s sewage.
Testing of wastewater in Townsville has turned up traces of COVID-19 in what authorities say is a worrying development as Queensland has reported one new case of coronavirus in the past 24 hours (pictured a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility in Brisbane, Queensland)
Speaking to the media on Saturday morning, deputy premier Steven Miles said traces of the virus detected in the sewage of Townsville (pictured) in the state’s north was concerning
Mr Miles said authorities were now scrambling to determine if there is a case or cases in the Townsville area that have been undetected.
‘We will be working with the Townsville Hospital and Health Service to just increase our testing rate there,’ Mr Miles said.
‘It underlines just how valuable that wastewater testing is proving to be.’
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said she was worried by the result considering Townsville had not reported a COVID-19 case for many weeks.
‘This is in Townsville where we know we haven’t had cases in quite some time,’ she said.
Dr Young urged everyone in the city to get tested if they felt unwell to give authorities the best chance of identifying the first case if any cluster emerged.
She said it was possible that the positive result had come from someone who had previously had the virus and recovered but was still shedding inactive virus, or someone with an old infection who had passed through the town.
The rise of new local cases has threatened the prospect of Queensland reopening its border with NSW on November 1 (pictured, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk)
He said authorities were now scrambling to determine if there is a case or cases in the Townsville area that have been undetected (pictured trainee hydrographer Andrew Lamb taking samples from a sewer in Melbourne)
‘Someone who has travelled through Townsville, a freight worker. It could even be someone who has been in quarantine,’ Dr Young said.
‘But my first theory, which I hope is incorrect, is it is someone who has active COVID-19 in Townsville.
‘That’s why I would like anyone in Townsville today who has any symptoms to come forward and get tested.’
There are currently four active cases in Queensland, with Dr Young adding on Saturday that hotel quarantine had been key to containing the virus.
Dr Young said there were significant numbers of people still traveling to Queensland for a number of reasons ‘so we need to use that hotel quarantine’.
‘We know that is what led to that rapid control back in March. You might remember, back in March, we were seeing up to 86 new cases per day.’ Dr Young said.
‘We needed to do something to get on top of that and we did. And hotel quarantine was one of the major successful initiatives that led to us getting control.’
A drive-through COVID-19 testing facility in Queensland (pictured) where one new case was reported on Saturday
Dr Young said that Queensland had policies in place to exempt some people from hotel quarantine where it was safer to do so.
‘So we do have a process to exempt people will from hotel quarantine to then quarantine in hospital… there are probably two or three a week it would end up in hospital’.
‘If they do not need to be in hospital, then to quarantine them at home with additional support. So that has been put in place since August 1 for about 60 people.’
Dr Young also said there was evidence the risk of catching the virus outside is much lower and encourages Queenslanders to venture outdoors.
‘Enjoy outside. We now know that the risk of transmission outside is much, much lower than the risk of transmission inside. So we should all use our climate in Queensland to our advantage and enjoy being outside,’ she said.
‘Get together with people – that is really important – particularly as we go towards Christmas, to our holiday season, that now is a time definitely to celebrate.’
‘We will be working with the Townsville Hospital and Health Service to just increase our testing rate there,’ Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said on Saturday (pictured)