Motor racing fans who attended last weekend’s Bathurst 100 have been told to remain vigilant for coronavirus symptoms after traces of COVID-19 were detected in sewerage in the event’s home town.
New South Wales Health said on Wednesday night it was “urgently undertaking investigations” to trace the virus in the region.
“The sample comprises wastewater from over the past weekend, and could indicate current or a previous infection in someone who attended or worked at the Bathurst 1000 motor race, a visitor to Bathurst, or even a local resident,” NSW Health said.
It comes as NSW has recorded two new cases of locally transmitted COVID-19 – both linked to known clusters – while testing rates doubled.
By Wednesday almost 15,000 people had heeded NSW Health’s plea for more people to get tested, compared with just 7401 in the previous 24 hours.
Anyone who attended the Bathurst 1000 motor race on the weekend as well as residents of Bathurst with any symptoms that could signal #COVID19 should get tested as soon as possible after remnants of the COVID-19 virus were detected in raw sewage. Read more: https://t.co/w1AJYDJwZv pic.twitter.com/T7vOFnfnpY
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) October 21, 2020
Eight cases were diagnosed in returned travellers in hotel quarantine.
Sewage testing for molecular markers of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, started in July. Authorities said it had added “another tool in the fight against the global pandemic”.
Bathurst residents, plus anyone who was at the race last weekend, are being urged to get tested should they be experiencing even the slightest symptoms.
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“Visitors to and residents of Bathurst must be aware of any symptoms of illness, and immediately isolate and get tested should even the mildest of symptoms appear that you think might just be a cold,” NSW Health said.
“Symptoms like a runny nose or scratchy throat, cough, tiredness, fever or other symptoms could be COVID-19.”
Church and gym restrictions ease
The alert came as more virus restrictions were lifted in the state.
Easing restrictions at places of worship and gyms in NSW will aid the “body and soul”, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said.
Congregations up to 300 will be allowed at places of worship from Friday after religious leaders, including Hillsong pastor Brian Houston, complained about “inconsistent” restrictions.
Staffing at gyms will also be relaxed, with a COVID safety marshal only required when more than 20 people are working out.
Mr Houston had earlier on Wednesday said churches were being left behind as other COVID-19 restrictions eased, with 300 guests being allowed at weddings from December.
His Sydney mega-church has a 4000-person capacity, but services were restricted to just 100 people.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was sorry if some religious leaders felt they were being ignored but he only heard of their concerns through the media.
Exemptions had been granted for a number of large churches, he said.
‘Wave of disadvantage’
Meanwhile, a new study warns a tsunami of social disadvantage triggered by the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic will hit NSW.
Mental health distress, domestic violence, homelessness and child neglect will skyrocket across the state without serious government intervention, Equity Economics’s report on the impacts of the COVID-19 recession found.
The expert report was commissioned by a group of NSW’s peak social services bodies, and examines five areas impacted by disadvantage: housing, domestic violence, child protection, mental health, and education.
The model forecasts the impact of rising unemployment on those five areas by June 2021, when JobKeeper is due to end.
It found more than 9000 extra people in NSW will be homeless, a rise of 24 per cent.
In some regions like Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Sydney City, the increase will be as high as 40.5 per cent.
The number of NSW families experiencing housing stress will also increase by more than 88,000 or 24.3 per cent.
Shelter NSW chief executive John Engeler said the report is a stark warning for the NSW government.
“Time is running out, but there is still a big opportunity to protect people from this oncoming wave of disadvantage,” he said in a statement.