A public health alert has been issued after a positive COVID-19 case travelled on the Virgin Australia flight VA1139 from Sydney, arriving in Ballina on 14 July at 11.45am. It is believed this person then travelled by private car to Queensland.
All passengers and cabin crew who were on this flight are considered as close contacts and must get tested and isolate for 14 days from the date of exposure, regardless of the result of the test. NSW Health has received the flight manifest and has contacted all passengers.
Others who were at the Ballina Airport arrivals lounge between 11.45am and 12.10pm on Wed 14 July are considered ‘casual contacts’ who must get tested and isolate until a negative result is received.*
The traveller was originally tested on 12 July following identification of a workplace exposure.
“Advice received by NSW Health indicates his positive test result was mistakenly reported to him by the private lab as a negative result after arriving in Queensland. He was required to isolate while awaiting his test results,” NNSWLHD acting Chief Executive Lynne Weir said.
“Following whole genome sequencing, which is routinely performed on all positive test results, NSW Health was alerted on 20 July that this person was in fact positive for COVID-19. When contacted by NSW Health, he advised he had been isolating since 10 July.
“NSW Health is now concerned he was potentially infectious in the community in Sydney, on the flight to Ballina, in the airport terminal and in Queensland.”
NSW Health is working with Queensland Health to investigate this person’s movements and venues that he attended and take appropriate public health actions. The matter has been referred to NSW Police.
This incident highlights the importance of following the public health advice and orders, particularly if you are identified as a close contact, and the risks that can arise if people breach the isolation rules put in place to protect the community and reduce the risk of further spread of COVID-19.
The current stay at home restrictions in the Greater Sydney area mean that people can only travel outside that area for certain essential reasons.
Any person who travels to regional NSW from Greater Sydney must follow the stay-at-home rules for 14 days after leaving Greater Sydney. This means they must follow the same rules that currently apply in Greater Sydney.
Sewage Surveillance testing in the Byron Bay area
Further sewage testing has been conducted in the local area, following detection of fragments of the COVID-19 virus in sewage samples taken from the Byron Bay sewage treatment plant on 20 July 2021.
Sewage tests conducted on Friday 23 July at the Ocean Shores, Byron Bay, Brunswick Valley and Bangalow treatment plants have all returned negative results.
Samples collected on 22 July at the Kingscliff, Banora Point, Murwullimbah and Hastings Point treatment plants were also negative.
NSW’s sewage surveillance plan is being reviewed daily in accordance with needs across the state. At present, the Byron Bay Treatment plant will be tested daily until further notice, while other North Coast sites will continue being tested weekly.
*original release had the time listed as 11.45am-12.00pm, but this has since been updated by NSW Health.