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Pat Conaghan MP

Fragments of COVID found in Coffs Harbour, Bonny Hills sewage

Federal Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan has urged residents across the electorate to consider a COVID test or to ensure they have booked a vaccination shot.

It follows revelations that fragments of the virus were detected in sewage samples taken from the Coffs Harbour and Bonny Hills sewage treatment plants on Monday, August 2.

“It is imperative that residents consider a COVID test at the first sign of feeling unwell,” Mr Conaghan said. “I would also urge residents and or visitors to book themselves in for a vaccination shot.”

Mid North Coast Local Health District is urging residents and visitors to the region to get tested for COVID-19 at the first sign of symptoms, following the detection of the fragments.

At present, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 anywhere in the Mid North Coast Local Health District, he said.

“The Coffs Harbour sewage treatment plant serves about 57,400 people from the urban areas of Coffs Harbour, while Bonny Hills serves around 7,010 residents of Lake Cathie and Bonny Hills in the Port Macquarie-Hastings Local Government Area.

“There have been no sewage detections in samples taken at the district’s three other testing sites (Port Macquarie, Dunbogan and South West Rocks).

“Testing sewage can help provide early warning of undetected infections in an area. In this instance, where there are no known cases of COVID-19 this is of particular concern.

“Detection of virus fragments in sewage can also be due to shedding of the virus by someone who may have previously had the illness and may no longer be infectious. It can also be the result of a person with COVID-19 who may have visited the community and has since left the area.

 “As well as being present in stools, viral fragments can enter the sewer when washed off hands and bodies through sinks and showers,” Mr Dowrick said.

 Usual sewage treatment processes inactivate, or kill, the COVID-19 virus.

 A list of the latest sewage detections in NSW is available at https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/nsw-covid-19-case-locations/sewage-testing and more information about the NSW Sewage Surveillance Program you can be found at:


 COVID-19 testing capacity increased

Additional resources have been allocated to testing clinics in the area, to increase capacity in response to the sewage detection.

“We strongly encourage residents and visitors in the area to remain vigilant and get tested at the first sign of illness,” Mr Dowrick said.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include a runny nose, scratchy or sore throat, cough, fever, shortness of breath, headache, tiredness, loss of taste or smell, nausea, diarrhoea or muscle aches.

Anyone feeling unwell should immediately get tested and self-isolate until they receive a negative result, so that any potential cases in the community are identified as quickly as possible, he said.

There are COVID-19 testing clinics located across the Mid North Coast LHD located at Bellingen, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Macksville, Nambucca Heads, Port Macquarie, South West Rocks, Wauchope and Woolgoolga.

A full list of clinic locations and opening hours are listed on the NSW government website at COVID-19 testing clinics.

There are more than 400 COVID-19 testing locations across NSW, many of which are open seven days a week.

MNCLHD is also encouraging people to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves against COVID-19. There are more than 100 NSW vaccination clinics and outreach locations across the state.

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