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March 7, 2021

‘Operational error’ over Byron Shire’s sewage surveillance program

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An ‘operational error’ has resulted in Byron Shire’s sewage surveillance results being unreported since the week ending December 5.

The tests are considered an addition to COVID-19 testing, as it only detects presence of the virus, including from those who have recovered.

Director North Coast Public Health, Paul Corben said in a statement, ‘Sewage testing is an extra COVID-19 surveillance mechanism in addition to testing of residents and visitors’.

‘Byron Bay is participating in the state’s sewage surveillance program; however, no results are available from the two Byron Shire testing locations since the week ending December 5.

‘There are many logistical challenges for regional NSW in transporting samples to Sydney.

‘Sewage samples need to be received by the laboratory within certain timeframes, and within a certain temperature range to ensure results are representative.

‘An operational error at collection led to recent samples being frozen rather than refrigerated, and therefore not able to be analysed on receipt by NSW Health.

‘North Coast Public Health Unit has issued clarifying guidance to Council on the correct handling of specimens to avoid further problems with sample testing.

‘Byron Shire Council has advised that a sample was collected [December 30, 2020], and will be tested after reaching the laboratory in Sydney.

Council apologises

Meanwhile, Byron Shire Council said in a statement, ‘In the week 16–22 December 2020, the wastewater sample was taken but unfortunately the courier responsible for its collection did not pick it up’.

Acting Mayor Michael Lyon said, ‘Council staff put the sample in the freezer and owing to the temperature for storage being too cold it was not able to be used’,

‘This was an inadvertent error and Council apologises’.

Chief Executive of Northern NSW Local Health District, Wayne Jones, told ABC last week there had been almost 91,000 COVID tests carried out in the health district, which is second only to Western NSW in terms of volume compared to other regional health districts in the state.

‘But Mr Jones conceded the testing rate was below other areas when compared to the tests per 1,000 [head of] population’.

Weekly updates can be found online at www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/weekly-reports.aspx.

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  1. For a town in a region that is absolutely a major risk for COVID given the massive influx of tourists from all over Australia and overseas, this is beyond a joke, and beyond a farce.

    As an older, seriously “at risk” resident of the region this incompetence directly affects people like me. Everyone responsible ought to be sacked.

  2. ah… a virus so deadly that you need to be tested to see if you have it; has a 99.97% survival rate; creates completely empty hospitals, and is so rampant you need to search through the sewage to see if you can find it… this covid pandemic is so obviously a fraud that it cant even be referred to as a virus anymore, it has now become an IQ test

  3. Unfortunately there’s no cure for stupidity can just imagine the uproar if some pesky outsider put the health of the good folks of Byron at risk.


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