Bourke on COVID alert

Western NSW LHD workers Tammie Selten, Donna Morris, Dan Kelly and Susanne Hand taking samples at the drive-thru COVID testing clinic at Davidson Oval. PHOTO TWH

The involvement by Bourke Shire Council in the NSW Health sewage surveillance program has paid off when fragments of the COVID virus were found in local sewage last week.

While the virus detection was a disruption to businesses, tourism and school holiday plans, the sewage testing provided the Bourke community with another level of security in the fight against the virus.

General Manager Mark Riley said the program was not designed to identify the source of the virus, but having the detection system meant widespread community testing could be rolled out immediately.

“Council didn’t hesitate last year when NSW Health discussed Bourke being part of the sewage testing program,” Mr Riley said.

“The speed with which the sewage was sampled, fragments detected, and NSW Health to alert us showed it was worthwhile for us to be part of this program.

“The program is not necessarily available to all councils, but Bourke Shire was happy to be involved as it provides another level of security.

“The sample was taken on Tuesday, June 22, and had to be transported by road to Dubbo and then flown to the NSW Health laboratories in Sydney.

“Council received advice from NSW Health late Thursday night, June 24, that the virus had been detected, so that is a good turnaround time considering the distances covered.

“We saw value in being part of the surveillance program because we have a vulnerable population, we are relatively isolated and don’t have the same access to health services as the city, and we have a lot of people visiting the town from major centres.

And now for the good news Further testing of the Bourke sewage on Friday has found no fragments of the virus that causes COVID-19. Department of Health officers carried out two tests at the Bourke sewage treatment plant on Friday and both tests returned a negative result for traces of COVID-19. Bourke Council General Manager Mark Riley said that while these negative tests were a good sign, everyone should continue to get tested, get vaccinated, and follow all the advice on social distancing, hand hygiene, and mask wearing in indoor public venues. Mr Riley said he was pleased to see 233 Bourke people had been vaccinated last week with a similar number of COVID tests conducted at the Davidson Oval pop-up clinic on the weekend. “But more people needed to be tested and vaccinated to better protect the vulnerable people in the Bourke community,” Mr Riley said.

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