COVID-19 wastewater testing to start at Tailem Bend

SA Health is putting an early detection system in place as South Australia prepares to open its borders.

Tailem Bend will get an extra layer of protection from coronavirus outbreaks as South Australia prepares to open its border with Victoria.

SA Water will begin testing wastewater from the town for traces of the virus, state Health Minister Stephen Wade announced on Thursday.

The testing will allow authorities to head off any outbreak before it becomes a major problem – and possibly before infected travellers or locals even begin to show symptoms.

“One significant advantage of wastewater testing is that it does not rely on people getting clinically tested, meaning it can potentially pick up cases that we are not aware of,” Mr Wade said.

“Expanding our testing along ... significant major roads will ensure we are actively monitoring parts of our state that could show the early signs of a potential outbreak.

“This also puts us in a good position to protect the local community, to slow the spread of any outbreaks which may occur.”

SA Water’s Dr Daniel Hoefel, pictured at left, said it had been several months since COVID-19 was last detected at any of the six sites scientists were monitoring.

But he remained confident in the technology.

“With our monitoring tool capable of detecting as few as four individual virus particles, we’re in a strong position to arm SA Health with vital intel should we discover any traces of COVID-19,” he said.

“We’re also continuing to improve our testing approach to reduce the time taken to reach a result.”

Clinical tests remained the “gold standard”, said Dr David Cunliffe, the Department of Health and Wellbeing’s principal water quality advisor, but wastewater testing gave authorities another weapon in the fight against the virus.

“It’s important that we use every tool in our armoury,” he said.

As well as Tailem Bend, wastewater will also be tested at Naracoorte from now on.

The regime had previously focused on Mount Gambier, for its proximity to the border, as well as Adelaide, Angaston and Lobethal.

The wastewater testing process was created by scientists at the Australian Water Quality Centre in just 12 weeks during the early stages of the pandemic.

Seek testing if you get symptoms of COVID-19

Meanwhile, Murray Bridge’s main COVID-19 testing centre has moved from the corner of Mulgundawah and Swanport Roads to the Southside Clinic on Homburg Drive in the past fortnight.

Anyone displaying symptoms including a fever or chill, cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath and/or a loss of taste or smell should make an appointment to get tested at one of the following locations, then self-isolate while awaiting a result:

  • Murray Bridge Respiratory Clinic: 8 Homburg Drive, Murray Bridge; call 8539 3232 before you visit

  • Tailem Bend mobile COVID-19 testing clinic: Tasco Caltex, 8786 Princes Highway, Tailem Bend; no appointment required

  • Moorundi Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service: 11A Standen Street, Murray Bridge; call 1800 023 846 before you visit

Your GP may also refer you to get tested at Murray Bridge Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital.

Alternative testing centres are available at Mannum, Karoonda, Meningie, Raukkan, Mount Barker and elsewhere around the state.

In an emergency, call 000.

Photo of SA Water senior water expertise and research manager Daniel Hoefel and environmental microbiologist Melody Lau: SA Water.

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