Inner West on alert after Covid fragments found in sewage

Sewage testing has been adopted by all Australian states and territories in a bid to track and trace the spread of Covid-19. Pictured are workers conducting testing at a wastewater treatment plant in Perth. Photo: WA Water Corporation.

By DAMIEN NOVAK

A swathe of Sydney’s Inner West and middle ring suburbs from Petersham in the east to Silverwater in the west are on alert after particles of the virus that causes Covid-19 were found in wastewater. 

Residents of fifteen suburbs, home to more than 40,000 people, are being urged to get tested if they develop any potential Covid symptoms, including cough, headache, fatigue, fever, runny nose or a sore throat, 

The virus fragments were detected at the Homebush wastewater network site this morning, promoting NSW Health to issue the warning. 

The catchment area includes the suburbs of Concord, Concord West, Homebush, Homebush West, Liberty Grove, Lidcombe, Newington, North Strathfield, Petersham, Rhodes, Rookwood, Silverwater, Strathfield, Sydney Olympic Park and Wentworth Point. 

While the news has concerned local residents, NSW Health tempered their announcement with an acknowledgment that it was possible the virus fragments have come from people who have previously recovered from Covid-19 and therefore not infectious.

“NSW Health is aware of recent Covid-19 cases, several returned overseas travellers, who live in this catchment,” the health department said in a statement. 

“People who are recently recovered from Covid-19 can continue to shed virus fragments into the sewerage system for several weeks even after they are no longer infectious.” 

The last people to test positive for the virus in NSW were an Eastern Suburbs couple on 5 May.

While NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the infected couple’s genomic sequencing matched a man in hotel quarantine at the Parkroyal Hotel at Darling Harbour, authorities have been unable to work out how the virus was transferred to the couple. 

In related news, the NSW Government announced last night that more than one million vaccine doses have now been administered in the state.

Yesterday, almost 12,000 people received a Covid jab in 24 hours to 8pm.

The government said people in their 40s could now get the Pfizer vaccine in 25 clinics across NSW, adding to the cohort of those aged 50 and over who have been receiving AstraZeneca jabs since late February.

Further information on the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in NSW is available at www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/vaccine/Pages/community.aspx