Traces of COVID-19 found in Broome wastewater, warns WA Health Department

Headshot of Josh Zimmerman
Josh ZimmermanThe West Australian
COVID traces have been discovered at the winter holiday hotspot.
Camera IconCOVID traces have been discovered at the winter holiday hotspot. Credit: Australia's North West Tourism

Weak traces of COVID-19 have been detected in wastewater in Broome, prompting health authorities to urge anyone living in the town with “even the mildest of symptoms” to immediately get tested.

In an alert issue this afternoon, the WA Health Department labelled the wastewater result “unexpected” but stressed it “does not necessarily indicate there is a positive case in the community”.

“Finding traces of the virus in wastewater samples could mean there are active cases nearby; an active case has passed through the area recently; or that a historical case has recently been in the area,” the statement said.

“People can continue to shed the virus for several weeks after they recover from COVID-19, even when they are no longer infectious.”

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Testing is available at Broome Hospital until 8pm tonight and from 8am to 8pm all weekend.

Once tested, anyone experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, headache or loss of smell/taste should returned home and isolate until they are confirmed negative.

The new COVID scare comes after a Greenwood FIFO worker based at Cloudbreak iron ore mine returned a “very weak” positive test that was announced Wednesday, with fears he was potentially infectious both on-site from July 20 to July 27 and in Perth at the end of last month.

No new cases have been diagnosed since then, with Premier Mark McGowan this morning announcing that 20 of 76 close contacts identified to date have now returned negative tests.

They include the FIFO worker’s girlfriend and four of his closest workmates.

A worker based at Cloudbreak iron ore mine also returned a ‘very weak’ positive test.
Camera IconA worker based at Cloudbreak iron ore mine also returned a ‘very weak’ positive test.

Additionally 230 of 1554 casual contacts – people who have visited exposure sites including the Subiaco Hotel, Old Faithful Bar in Fremantle and Indian Ocean Hotel in Scarborough – have also been cleared of the virus.

Mr McGowan said Fortescue Metals Group, which operates Cloudbreak, had also conducted “thousands” of rapid antigen tests on mine workers that had not detected any additional cases.

Meanwhile, the BBC California cargo ship – which arrived in WA with 10 of 14 crew infected with COVID-19 in mid-July – has now been cleared to depart Fremantle Port and is expected to leave tomorrow.

Bulk carrier Darya Krishna remains at Fremantle Port.
Camera IconBulk carrier Darya Krishna remains at Fremantle Port. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

Another COVID-riddled bulk carrier, MV Darya Krishna, remains berthed at Fremantle Port with Mr McGowan revealing one of the mariners from the ship was on a ventilator in hospital.

In addition to that man, who the WA Health Department described as “critically unwell”, authorities are monitoring eight other active cases in the State.

Two are in hotel quarantine, one is in home quarantine, four cases are on board the MV Darya Krishna and one other seafarer from that vessel is also in hospital in a stable condition on a respiratory ward.

Nearly 8800 people were tested for COVID-19 yesterday in WA and the State also registered a record day for vaccinations, with 17,116 people receiving a jab.

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