COVID fragments emerging in wastewater for areas north of the city have Ballarat health authorities concerned the deadly virus has escaped the lockdown zone.
Grampians Public Health Unit medical director Rosemary Aldrich said a detection result, reported just before midnight Friday, was new for the region north of Ballarat.
About 80 per cent of wastewater within City of Ballarat goes to the Ballarat South catchment while Ballarat North includes collection from Wendouree, Miners Rest, Learmonth and part of the Hepburn Shire, beyond Creswick.
There were 11 active known COVID infections within the City of Ballarat on Saturday. All are linked to three households, none of which are in the city's north. All are isolating at home under Ballarat Health Services' in-home care program, including two who were discharged from hospital care by late Friday.
There is also an active case in Daylesford, still in isolation after being diagnosed late last week.
Associate Professor Aldrich said the detection still needed to be subject to the usual investigation process but this was similar to how the Ballarat outbreak starts. She said, like Ballarat South detections, where there was smoke there was usually fire.
Anyone living north of Ballarat with even the slightest of symptoms is urged to turn up and get COVID tested.
[From Ballarat South] We preempted that, we set up, we sought and we found cases. We want to do the same again.Rosemary Aldrich, Grampians Public Health Unit
"What we've learnt from wastewater detections in the Ballarat South catchment is it was followed by us detecting cases. We preempted that, we set up, we sought and we found cases. We want to do the same again," Associate Professor Aldrich said.
"What it does mean - the comments we've been making the past few days about people in surrounding towns and those with daily lives in Ballarat also being affected potentially by contact or spread or indeed by knowing - was not necessarily lockdown but needing to observe whether they've been to some exposure sites in Ballarat."
Anyone should be tested if they have visited a known exposure site. There are listed here.
Associate Professor Aldrich also urged people to not wait for official messaging from an overwhelmed health department to be tested, rather people should follow exposure sites and be proactive.
While the COVID detection in Ballarat North could be shedding, Associate Professor Aldrich said it was more probably than possible there were undetected active cases.
Five per cent of Ballarat's population undertook COVID testing on Thursday and Friday.
Testing, along with vaccinations, are what Associate Professor Aldrich reiterated as Ballarat's best defence for getting out of lockdown and preventing lockdown again.
Our confidence to lift lockdown really depend on our confidence in what we have been able to find in the testing regimes.Rosemary Aldrich, Grampians Public Health Unit
"Our confidence to lift lockdown really depend on our confidence in what we have been able to find in the testing regimes," Associate Professor Aldrich said. "The more people who come out and get tested, the more we know about what's happening in Ballarat, the more we know about how safe it is to lift restrictions."
Meanwhile, Associate Professor Aldrich reiterated the Victorian health department's concerns about the construction industry on Saturday.
Construction workers from Melbourne are barred from working in Ballarat but Ballarat workers can visit Melbourne for supplies.
The Ballarat outbreak started with a construction worker who had been working in Melbourne.
"We worry there's more cases out there among construction workers so we are urging anyone with the slightest of symptoms to come forward but especially people who work in the construction industry," Associate Professor Aldrich said.
"We're worried that unless we get a grasp on that locally, we don't want to go in the same direction Melbourne has gone down and we've got a chance to stop that."
IN OTHER NEWS
People who are double-vaccinated must also get tested with symptoms because they can still catch and spread the virus.
Grampians Public Health Unit chalked up 115,000 vaccinations in state-run hubs across the region on Saturday.
This is a further 15,000 in the past fortnight and equates to 30,000 vaccinations delivered overall, given the state hub rate was also matched by primary health care providers across the region.
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