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State-wide rollout of sewage testing to ensure no virus goes undetected


Researchers are already sampling wastewater in south-east Queensland for any evidence COVID-19 has gone undetected.

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A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the wastewater testing program, run by the CSIRO and the University of Queensland, was at the experimental design and validation stage. Several papers have already been published showing its potential.

“Queensland Health is sampling wastewater in larger population centres and locations with significant tourist numbers to identify the presence of virus genetic material (viral RNA) to build a better understanding of communities where the COVID-19 virus has spread,” the spokeswoman said.

“Following agreement with relevant local governments and water utilities, we are planning to take samples from suitable wastewater treatment plants state wide. Sampling has commenced in a number of locations in south east Queensland but no confirmed results have been reported yet.”

It comes after Queensland managed to avoid the uncontrolled and undetectable spread of COVID-19 after two women returned from Logan with the disease. That included the use of serology testing to gain a better understanding of the nature of the problem.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young on Monday emphasised the need for a rapid response. She urged Queenslanders to continue social distancing, wash their hands and stay home – and get tested – if sick.

“If we can get the first case, not the fourth case or the 50th case … and stop those chains of transmission we’ll be able to manage it going forward,” Young said.

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles told parliament today that “Queensland remains on top” of COVID-19. There were no new infections to report, and the number of active cases remained unchanged at 11.

“Thanks to our response over the past fortnight we have avoided a potential disaster,” Miles said.

“The Melbourne-Logan cluster was thankfully confined to just five positive cases.”

Test results for two teenagers accused of breaching border controls to visit Noosa have also come back negative for COVID-19.

Miles foreshadowed new or renewed restrictions if Queensland’s COVID-19 condition deteriorated.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told parliament she was working with National Cabinet to close potential loopholes, including the inconsistent information on airline passengers available to contact tracers.


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