People urged to get tested after coronavirus fragments detected in Melbourne sewage

Victorian health authorities have issued a plea for residents in a Melbourne suburb to come forward for testing after traces of coronavirus were unexpectedly found in sewerage.

Fragments of the virus have been detected in a wastewater sample collected from the Altona sewage catchment on Wednesday 18 November.

The Department of Health and Human Services say the result is unexpected because it has been about eight weeks since someone in the area had the virus.

Residents and visitors to Altona and surrounding suburbs from last Monday to Wednesday are urged to get tested if they have any symptoms, no matter how mild.

Suburbs in the wastewater catchment include Altona, Altona Meadows, Laverton, Point Cook and Sanctuary Lakes.

It comes as Victorian communities reliant on South Australia for shopping and business lament separate detections of COVID-19 in sewerage, which prompted a border closure.

The state’s “hard border” with South Australia came into effect on Thursday night in response to an outbreak of COVID-19 in Adelaide, where a cluster now numbers 25 cases.

The closure will remain in place until Sunday when a permit system is implemented, however border communities have no idea how it will operate.

Locals say they have been thrown into confusion, with one publican labelling the new border closure “bloody stupid”.

Apsley publican Robert Carberry told AAP his border community had already dealt with extreme frustration for eight months, and just as things were getting back to normal they had been “shot in the neck”.

He said many locals had been tested for the virus 20 to 25 times – once for every weekly shop over the past several months in Naracoorte – just 20 minutes away on the SA side.

This compulsory testing stopped a fortnight ago and life got easier, but now Victoria’s border closure has thrown the community into confusion.

Having finished with the SA permit system and now facing a Victorian permit system, he said: “It’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely bloody stupid.”

“The people making decisions have no idea what effect those decisions are having on people in border communities.”

It is unclear whether Apsley Primary School will be open on Monday as it relies on teachers and about 40 per cent of its students being able to cross the border, Mr Carberry said.

The border shutdown was prompted by the unexpected detection of virus fragments in wastewater at the regional Victorian centres of Benalla and Portland.

Both locations are along freight corridors and the results emerged amid Adelaide’s growing cluster, sparking a “circuit-breaker” lockdown in that city.

Victorian health authorities believe the virus fragments could either be from an active infection, or a recovered case who may still be shedding the virus.

Under the hard border, only freight drivers and those with medical or emergency reasons, as well as people authorised by law, such as child protection officers, will be able to cross the border.

More than 300 police will patrol the Victorian side of the SA border, from Mildura to Portland.

It’s the first time Victoria has shut its border to any state during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Victoria has been free of virus transmission or death for three weeks.

The state is now preparing for the reinstatement of hotel quarantine, which sparked the second wave, when international arrivals resume on 7 December.

Initially, the traveller cap will be 160 per day.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW,Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT, Tasmania.


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