UPDATED 12:15 pm: Bega Valley Shire Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick says while a positive sewage result may indicate the presence of people who have recently recovered from COVID-19, they could also signal undetected cases in the Merimbula community.
The Merimbula sewage treatment plant serves about 15,000 people.
“These results do not necessarily mean there are active cases in the community, but we need to stay alert,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.
“If you’re feeling unwell, even with mild symptoms, please get tested and self-isolate until you receive a negative result.”
Cr Fitzpatrick said NSW Health was increasing its testing capability with a pop-up drive through clinic in Merimbula opening this afternoon (25 August) to supplement the testing capability at South East Regional Hospital.
“And of course, practising good hand hygiene, wearing a mask and using QR codes to check in at venues are also important to help keep our community safe,” he said.
Council has been carrying out twice weekly checks of sewage processing sites at Eden, Bermagui and Merimbula to get an early warning of possible infections within the community by looking for traces of the COVID-19 virus in sewage.
“Importantly, Bermagui and Eden samples did not return a detection of the virus during the same period,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.
Results from the next sample are expected to be available over the coming weekend.
Cr Fitzpatrick said the request to NSW Health to increase testing from once to twice a week was made by the Bega Valley Local Emergency Management Committee in order to get as much early warning of any infections in the community as possible.
“We were very pleased that NSW Health agreed to twice per week testing. It shows they understand the severity of the threat to our LGA should we experience an outbreak.”
A pop-up drive through testing clinic will be open from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm today in the carpark at Club Sapphire, 119 Main Street, Merimbula. The clinic will also operate 8:00 am to 4:00 pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week.
South East Regional Hospital’s COVID-19 drive through testing clinic is open Monday to Sunday 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
11:30 am: Fragments of the COVID-19 Delta variant have been found in Merimbula’s sewage, Member for Bega Andrew Constance has confirmed on social media.
The detection was from a sample taken over Sunday 22 August and Monday 23 August.
Anyone with even mild symptoms is being urged to get tested. A pop-up testing clinic is being set up in the area later today (Wednesday, 25 August).
“This is a timely reminder to please get vaccinated with either vaccine [AstraZeneca or Pfizer] as soon as you can,” wrote Mr Constance on Facebook.
“Please stay at home to ensure we don’t see a run of the virus through our towns on the Far South Coast.”
News of the Far South Coast fragments broke as NSW COVID-19 case numbers hit another high.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state recorded 919 cases and two deaths in the 24 hours to 8:00 pm on Tuesday.
Some 178 are linked to a known case or cluster, 153 are household contacts and 25 are close contacts. The source of infection for 741 cases is under investigation. Authorities say 37 cases were infectious in the community, and 758 cases are now under investigation.
Eight new cases have been recorded in the Illawarra Shoalhaven health district, the highest daily number the region has seen since the outbreak began.