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‘True positive’: Adelaide wastewater tests raise COVID concerns

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There are renewed fears about potential undetected COVID-19 transmission in South Australia after authorities overnight completed another round of wastewater testing in the Adelaide CBD which indicates a “true positive result”.

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Overnight testing of a sub-catchment at the Bolivar waste treatment plant – which covers the northern areas of the Adelaide CBD and surrounding suburbs – confirmed a positive result at levels SA Health says it hasn’t seen since the Parafield cluster.

It follows similar results obtained from wastewater testing done on Tuesday and over the weekend.

SA Health believes this is most likely due to an old case or undetected community transmission.

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Emily Kirkpatrick said the results were particularly concerning given the sub-catchment captures areas where the Adelaide Fringe is taking place.

“We’re very confident that this is a true positive result we are seeing in the wastewater, and again confirmed last night after repeat testing down at Bolivar,” Kirkpatrick told ABC Radio this morning.

“We are still continuing to see that positive results come through which is very concerning for us here at SA Health.”

Kirkpatrick said that while people staying at the city’s medi-hotels could be shedding the virus, SA Health is “not convinced” they are the source of the positive wastewater tests.

“We haven’t seen these levels since the Parafield cluster, and we’ve had a number of individuals within our medi-hotels in January and February and we haven’t seen this same detection,” she said.

“We are certainly looking at that next hypothesis which is around that activity within the CBD.”

She said a wastewater result as strong as this is “unlikely” to come from a single individual with an old infection, with health authorities working on the assumption that a family or group of people who travelled to Adelaide for the festival season could be responsible for the positive test.

SA Health will be contacting people who have attended the Fringe and other associated events to ask whether they have had a previous COVID infection, given cases can shed the virus for up to three months.

SA Water says they are ramping up wastewater testing due to the latest results.

Officials are continuing their plea for people to come forward for testing even if they have the “mildest of symptoms”, with SA Health recording a “drop off” in testing rates across the state.

Average daily testing rates across SA are just above 2500 this week.

SA recorded one new case of COVID-19 today: a man in his 30s who recently returned from overseas and tested positive in a medi-hotel.

SA Health administered 450 vaccines on Tuesday – a new high.

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