coronavirus,

Traces of coronavirus have been detected in a routine sewage test in the ACT for the first time, prompting renewed calls for Canberrans to get tested for COVID-19 if they experience even mild symptoms. The positive detection in a sewage sample collected from Belconnen could be due to a person who had previously recovered from COVID-19 shedding the virus when they are no longer infectious. The virus can shed through a recovered person’s system for between six and eight weeks after they have recovered. However, the positive detection can also indicate undetected active cases in the community. Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said a sample collected from the Belconnen waste water testing location on January 27 returned a positive test for COVID-19. “We know this news may be concerning for residents in the Belconnen area, however this news does not automatically mean we have an active case here in the ACT,” Ms Stephen-Smith said. Ms Stephen-Smith said anyone who lived in or visited Belconnen and had even mild symptoms of COVID-19 needed to get tested and self isolate. “Although there is no cause for alarm, this is an important reminder that COVID-19 has not gone away and that we need the community to remain alert,” she said. The Belconnen waste water testing location covers waste water from all Belconnen suburbs as well as Hall. Samples from the other five waste water testing sites in the ACT had returned negative results. Ms Stephen-Smith said it was important to find out as quickly as possible if there was an undetected active case. “If there is an active case that we’re not aware of it, it is vitally important that we know that as quickly as possible so that our contact tracers can get to work ensuring that any contacts of that case go into quarantine and that we break those chains of transmission and don’t see community transmission here in the ACT,” she said. Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Vanessa Johnston said the sample would be tested again and investigations would continue over the weekend. “However, we can’t exclude that we don’t have an undetected active case, which is why we need to treat this detection with caution and continue to investigate the matter and advise the public to get tested if they have symptoms. At this time it’s really important that the community remains alert but not alarmed,” she said. Dr Johnston said she did not expect there to be any changes to gathering restrictions or travel advice for the ACT as a result of the waste water detection. She said ACT Health would not be able to run genomic tests on the sample to determine which outbreak the COVID-19 strain was linked to. Further waste water testing will take place on Tuesday as part of the ACT government’s weekly testing program. Dr Johnston said there were no plans to re-open the West Belconnen testing site, which closed last week. She said the West Belconnen site had only operated in business hours and the other ACT sites had met the demand in other peak periods. The ACT has not recorded any positive cases of COVID-19 since December, when a Commonwealth official returned a positive test in hotel quarantine. Since the pandemic began, 118 cases have been detected in the ACT and 115 people have recovered. Three people died after contracting the virus. Fragments of the coronavirus were found at the Batemans Bay sewage treatment plan in December. NSW on Saturday recorded its 13th day without a case of local coronavirus transmission, while two cases were reported in hotel quarantine. NSW health authorities have expressed concern over the low number of people presenting for testing as restrictions ease across Greater Sydney. The ACT on Friday lifted the last remaining travel restrictions to the Cumberland local government area in Sydney. Public health experts at the Australian National University began testing sewage for COVID-19 traces in April last year. At the time, Dr Aparna Lal, a fellow and lecturer at the university’s National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, said the tests could monitor the circulation of the virus in the community and it could act as an early warning tool. “This novel method will provide us with possible community transmission and load of the virus in the population,” Dr Lal told The Canberra Times. “It can be used as an additional tool when case numbers have really declined, to ensure us there is not a high level of undetected coronavirus.”

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UPDATED

January 30 2021 – 1:45PM

Traces of coronavirus have been detected in a routine sewage test in the ACT for the first time, prompting renewed calls for Canberrans to get tested for COVID-19 if they experience even mild symptoms.

The positive detection in a sewage sample collected from Belconnen could be due to a person who had previously recovered from COVID-19 shedding the virus when they are no longer infectious.

The virus can shed through a recovered person’s system for between six and eight weeks after they have recovered.

However, the positive detection can also indicate undetected active cases in the community.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said a sample collected from the Belconnen waste water testing location on January 27 returned a positive test for COVID-19.

“We know this news may be concerning for residents in the Belconnen area, however this news does not automatically mean we have an active case here in the ACT,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

Ms Stephen-Smith said anyone who lived in or visited Belconnen and had even mild symptoms of COVID-19 needed to get tested and self isolate.

“Although there is no cause for alarm, this is an important reminder that COVID-19 has not gone away and that we need the community to remain alert,” she said.

The Belconnen waste water testing location covers waste water from all Belconnen suburbs as well as Hall.

Samples from the other five waste water testing sites in the ACT had returned negative results.

Ms Stephen-Smith said it was important to find out as quickly as possible if there was an undetected active case.

“If there is an active case that we’re not aware of it, it is vitally important that we know that as quickly as possible so that our contact tracers can get to work ensuring that any contacts of that case go into quarantine and that we break those chains of transmission and don’t see community transmission here in the ACT,” she said.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith addresses the media on Saturday. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Vanessa Johnston said the sample would be tested again and investigations would continue over the weekend.

“However, we can’t exclude that we don’t have an undetected active case, which is why we need to treat this detection with caution and continue to investigate the matter and advise the public to get tested if they have symptoms. At this time it’s really important that the community remains alert but not alarmed,” she said.

Dr Johnston said she did not expect there to be any changes to gathering restrictions or travel advice for the ACT as a result of the waste water detection.

She said ACT Health would not be able to run genomic tests on the sample to determine which outbreak the COVID-19 strain was linked to.

Further waste water testing will take place on Tuesday as part of the ACT government’s weekly testing program.

She said the West Belconnen site had only operated in business hours and the other ACT sites had met the demand in other peak periods.

Since the pandemic began, 118 cases have been detected in the ACT and 115 people have recovered. Three people died after contracting the virus.

NSW on Saturday recorded its 13th day without a case of local coronavirus transmission, while two cases were reported in hotel quarantine.

NSW health authorities have expressed concern over the low number of people presenting for testing as restrictions ease across Greater Sydney.

At the time, Dr Aparna Lal, a fellow and lecturer at the university’s National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, said the tests could monitor the circulation of the virus in the community and it could act as an early warning tool.

“This novel method will provide us with possible community transmission and load of the virus in the population,” Dr Lal told The Canberra Times.

“It can be used as an additional tool when case numbers have really declined, to ensure us there is not a high level of undetected coronavirus.”



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