Victoria ‘eliminates’ coronavirus after 28 days without a new case
Victoria has achieved 28 days without a new case of coronavirus – the milestone epidemiologists say signals the eradication of COVID-19 in the community.
The state has ended the week on a high with Friday marking the 28th so-called "double doughnut day" in a row in the wake of the disastrous second coronavirus wave.
However, Geelong residents with any symptoms are being urged to get tested after fragments of the virus were found at a wastewater treatment plant in Corio.
While the tests worried health authorities, they say there have been no recent cases in the area.
According to the working definition, a state or territory has achieved elimination of community transmission of coronavirus if it goes 28 days with no mystery cases.
While experts are quietly confident Victoria has completely stamped out community transmission of the virus for now, the biggest risk of COVID-19 returning comes from the easing of border restrictions and the reopening of hotel quarantine.
Melbourne will start to receive international arrivals again on December 7, with Premier Daniel Andrews confirming the state will stick with a modified version of its original hotel quarantine program.
The Premier ruled out a home-based isolation scheme for low-risk travellers, as was recommended by the state's hotel quarantine inquiry, but said Australians returning to Melbourne will be required to be tested for coronavirus before they board a flight.
University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely has warned that unless Australia changes its border policy and stops accepting people flying in from the northern hemisphere, where the virus continues to run rampant, it will only be a matter of time before there is a "slip-up somewhere" and more cases leach into the community.
As Victoria's run of zero-case days continued this week, he said: "When we achieve 28 days we will be achieving it with bells and whistles because we will have had no new cases for 28 days and we will have no active cases left in the community.
"It's the complete Rolls-Royce version," he added.
The last patient in Victoria infected with the virus, a man aged in his 90s, was discharged from hospital on Monday night, after being admitted last month. The man was treated at the Monash Medical Centre for more than 40 days alongside his wife who also contracted the virus.
Victoria achieved its first "triple doughnut day" on Tuesday, with no new coronavirus cases, no deaths and no active cases, for the first time since February 29.
There have been 20,345 cases of COVID-19 in Victoria and 819 deaths, most of them among the elderly in aged care.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said on Thursday that the results from the Corio treatment plant were unexpected as there have been no recent COVID-19 infections in the area where the viral fragments were found.
The positive result could be from a person who has recovered from the virus and is living in the area or visited and is still "shedding" the virus.
"We have had few of these positive wastewater results recently and, while we haven’t discovered any undiagnosed case of coronavirus, it is possible that there may be an infectious person in this catchment," Professor Cheng said.
"We encourage people in this area who are symptomatic to be tested and will update the community once more testing results become available. It is also a timely reminder for local businesses to re-check their COVID Safe plans to keep themselves, their colleagues and customers safe."
Last week, viral fragments were found in wastewater samples from Altona, Benalla and Portland. No cases have been detected in those areas following the findings.
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