Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young

September 18, 2020

Low-level traces of the virus which causes COVID-19 have been detected in sewage at a Hervey Bay wastewater treatment plant.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said on Friday the traces were picked up as part of a sewage testing program across Queensland.

“We are picking up virus every so often. We’re not sure at this point in time what that really means,” she said.

“But we are taking, of course, a very cautious approach to that and wherever we are finding virus, we are asking people to come out and get tested so that we make sure that we don’t have community transmission in that community.

“We know you can shed virus for a long, long time but we don’t want to ignore the fact that perhaps – maybe – the virus is there in the sewage due to a recent infection … if we can find the first case in a cluster we can clamp down on it very, very quickly and not end up in a large outbreak.”

She urged anyone with symptoms across Queensland to come forward for testing.

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Health Minister Dr Steven Miles said there had been no new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Queensland overnight.

There were now 25 active cases in the State and 5751 tests had been carried out during the latest period.

“It’s now eight days since we consider we had someone infectious in our community,” Dr Miles said.

“Obviously we would hope to continue to see no new cases, or only new cases in quarantine, up to that 14-day period at which time we can consider lifting restrictions.”

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Queensland will reopen its border to the Australian Capital Territory from 1:00am next Friday (September 25).

Mr Miles said Canberrans would now be able to fly to Queensland for the school holidays.

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Deputy Premier and Health Minister Dr Steven Miles

Dr Miles has rejected criticism that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk should be in charge of public health decision-making rather than Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young.

Both the Premier and Dr Young have been receiving sustained criticism on social media over the decision-making process linked to Health Directions and border exemptions.

They have also been the target of advertising by Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party with the slogans “If she doesn’t make the decisions she shouldn’t be in the position” and “Shame on you both”.

Dr Miles said the legislation was clear.

Under the Public Health Act 2005, it was the Chief Health Officer who had the power to give public health directions – and what exemptions were available under these directions – during a pandemic.

“From day one we have been in a good position in Queensland because we have let the Chief Health Officer do her job,” Dr Miles said.

“Over the past few days, (Opposition Leader) Deb Frecklington has said she’d tell the Chief Health Officer what to do when it came to exemptions. And we’ve seen the Prime Minister reject health advice about borders.

“That’s not following medical advice, it’s injecting politics into a pandemic.

“The only obligation of a leader should be to let the CHO do her job and give her the resources she needs.

“Deb Frecklington should outline what amendments she would make to the Public Health Act to give her the powers to politically override the expert medical advice of the Chief Health Officer.”

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