DETECTION of the deadly coronavirus in Ballarat is cause for all residents to be alert but not alarmed, health officials say, as restrictions on regional Victoria ease leading into the weekend.
They say it is only a matter of time until active COVID-19 cases emerge in Ballarat once more and the community must be prepared.
COVID-19 fragments have again been confirmed in Ballarat South wastewater for the second time within a fortnight but there have not yet been active COVID-19 infections recorded in the city.
This comes as a case has cropped up in Daylesford with two Tier one exposure sites, both cafes and medical centre as a Tier Two exposure site.
The case cited as a worker at Cliffy's Emporium cafe was listed as a risk on Tuesday and Wednesday.
A Ballarat Health Services spokesperson confirmed there had been no change to public health response after the second COVID-positive wastewater result.
BHS chief Dale Fraser told media earlier in the week that while this was concerning, it did not mean the virus was circulating in Ballarat yet.
He said typically such results were the result of someone travelling through the region but it was another reminder to make sure residents do everything they could to stay safe: QR code, social distance, wear masks, sanitise hands and stick to COVID restrictions.
Epidemiologist Richard Clark said wastewater tests were "fairly sensitive" and while this could signal someone shedding the virus, it was more likely someone with high-level infection.
I suggest it's a good idea for people to get tested for any of the slightest symptoms as soon as possible. With Delta, leave it a few days and it's like a bushfire - it just spreads.Epidemiologist Richard Clark
"It's probably low-level alarm until there are identified cases," Dr Clark said. "I suggest it's a good idea for people to get tested for any of the slightest symptoms as soon as possible. With Delta, leave it a few days and it's like a bushfire - it just spreads."
BHS is encouraging people to prioritise COVID vaccinations in a bid to help better protect themselves and the community, particularly as regional Victoria opens up.
Appointments are still available for final year secondary students BHS' Super Sunday blitz to get jabs in arms before exams.
Victoria has topped more than 320 new COVID-19 infections the past two consecutive days with 185 classed as mystery cases on Friday morning. The state also recorded one more COVID-19 death, bringing the toll to four lives lost this outbreak.
Regional Victoria is experiencing a slight easing in restrictions, despite positive cases in the Geelong region. A positive case was confirmed to be in a nursing practical class on Australian Catholic University's Ballarat campus last week.
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City of Ballarat mayor Daniel Moloney said the signs in the region and Ballarat's wastewater were concerning but reiterated the BHS message for residents to keep doing everything right.
"If we do need to swing into action, City of Ballarat's been working with BHS and everyone else to be ready for a quick response if we need to, but hopefully Ballarat's luck holds out," Cr Moloney said.
"We've had a lot of good management and good practices by individuals over the past year, but we've had a lot of good luck. We're pragmatic, we know that luck won't last forever, hopefully people continue to do the right thing, to prevent further lockdowns."
We're pragmatic, we know that luck won't last forever, hopefully people continue to do the right thing, to prevent further lockdowns.City of Ballarat mayor Daniel Moloney
The suburbs that feed into the Ballarat South wastewater plant include: Ballarat, Ballarat East, Brown Hill, Canadian, Golden Point, Mt Clear, Buninyong, Sebastopol, Lucas, Alfredton, Lake Wendouree, Redan, Delacombe, Bonshaw and Enfield.
While this might not mean the virus was circulating in Ballarat, there were multiple fragment detections in Shepparton before the existing outbreak was confirmed. Shepparton remains in hard lockdown.
City of Ballarat chief executive Evan King knowing there were virus fragments in Ballarat wastewater were important to monitor and be aware about.
"This is a long journey, in the end, and one of the challenges is we start to see ourselves coming out of restrictions, we all do it, thinking it's over, but it's not," Mr King said. "While we're still trying to get vax rates up, it'll be a rollercoaster for us."
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