Australia holds its breath as two major cities frantically test hundreds of people after a major Covid breach in Brisbane and a ‘strong and unexpected’ traces found in Melbourne sewage
- Australia is on high alert after two potential coronavirus crises in major cities
- Victoria’s Health Department confirmed ‘strong’ fragments of virus in sewers
- Brisbane Airport saw two travellers from Papua New Guinea breach security
Victoria’s Health Department revealed Thursday it detected ‘strong and unexpected’ fragments of Covid were found in the state’s sewage.
The Health Department said 246 people who live in Melbourne’s western and north-western suburbs were called on Thursday and asked to get a test.
Brisbane authorities are meanwhile scrambling to identify people potentially exposed to two passengers arriving from a ‘red zone’ country who were allowed to mingle with travellers heading to New Zealand at Brisbane Airport.
The duo returned from Covid hotspot Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea on Thursday morning and were allowed to head to a café and a shop at the airport for almost two hours before authorities discovered the breach.
One has since tested positive to the virus.
Brisbane Airport Corporation confirmed on Thursday passengers arriving from ‘red zone’ country Papua New Guinea were allowed to mix with travellers heading to New Zealand (file image of Brisbane Airport)
Hundreds of Victorias have been urged to get tested for coronavirus after ‘strong and unexpected’ fragments of Covid were found in the state’s sewage
The Victorian Health Department said it was scrambling to determine whether the sewer samples are evidence of community cases of coronavirus.
‘This additional action is being taken due to the strength of the wastewater detection and because a known positive Covid-19 case, from flight QF778, has been in Victoria in the past 14 days,’ the department said in a statement.
The Victorian Government contacted 246 people on Thursday including four primary close contacts of that case and 242 recently returned red and orange zone travel permit holders.
‘All of these primary close contacts have recently been tested and have returned negative results. All of the 246 people are being asked to test again out of an abundance of caution,’ the statement continued.
It is most likely that these new detections are due to a person or persons continuing to shed the virus after the infection period however, it could also be due to a person living in or travelling through the area in the early active infectious phase.
‘The wastewater testing program is designed as an early warning system to support our ongoing efforts in continuing to protect the CovidSafe environment we have achieved and therefore a cautious approach is always taken when these detections are found,’ the department said.
The passengers arriving from Papua New Guinea were ‘incorrectly allowed into the “green zone”‘. Pictured, a staff member in protective medical clothing moves through the arrivals area at Brisbane Airport
Papua New Guinea has been fighting to get widespread community transmission of Covid under control
The Queensland Health Department said the two passengers who slipped through the airport’s security system were at the port’s Hudson Cafe at the same time almost 400 ‘green zone’ travellers were preparing to fly out to New Zealand.
The Brisbane Airport Corporation blamed ‘human error’ for the breach, with an investigation involving Queensland Health underway into why the passengers were allowed to head to the café.
BAC said it ‘unreservedly apologises for this human error’.
‘At approximately 9.30am, two transit passengers arrived on a “red” flight from Port Moresby and proceeded through screening to transit as per normal process,’ the airport said in a statement.
‘Initial review of CCTV indicates that at approximately 9.55am, these passengers were incorrectly allowed into the “green zone”. The passengers were seated at a retail outlet within the green zone until approximately 11.20am.
‘The passengers then used the bathroom and attended another retailer before they were located by BAC staff and returned to the “red zone”. They were in the green zone for just under two hours.’
New Zealand’s Ministry of Health told travellers arriving in the country from Brisbane to monitor their health for the next 14 days.