Government authorities collecting sewage samples at a trendy tourist hotspot to search for hidden cases of COVID-19 mistakenly froze the lot and made it completely useless.
Specimens from the Byron Bay sewage treatment plants were sent to NSW Health for testing to determine if there were any undetected coronavirus cases in the county.
But when they arrived at the lab, scientists found the samples were unusable after council workers placed them in a freezer rather than a refrigerator.
Byron Bay has been left without COVID-19 wastewater test results after government officials mistakenly froze samples rendering them unnecessary. The jungle arises as vacationers flock to the tourist hotspot (pictured) to make the most of the summer vacation
The debacle left the county with no sewage test results for about a month, North Coast Director of Public Health Paul Corben confirmed to the Gold Coast Bulletin.
The blunder comes as a New South Wales remains on high alert amid an outbreak of new coronavirus cases originating from a cluster on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Earlier this month, other states and territories rushed to effectively ban residents of Greater Sydney from crossing their borders in response to the outbreak, which is now linked to 144 cases.
As authorities work to stem the spread, Byron Bay, like many popular New South Wales coastal towns, is teeming with vacationers embracing the holiday season.
Local Nicqui Yazdi, a representative of the local Drugs Action Team and Byron Underage Drinking and Drug Initiative, denounced the mess on Facebook on Thursday, describing the mistake as an “ epic mess. ”
“ I sent a number of emails yesterday and called to try and clarify the lack of current reports for over a month of sewage testing at the two Byron factories on the site official monitoring of NSW Health Covid, ” she wrote.
“I received an email response last night from Wayne Jones, Executive Director of the local health district of North New South Wales.
Wayne confirmed what I suspected, that yes indeed there had been a lot going on, and NO covid testing was done on samples from either of the stations in ‘Byron Shire scrubbing because they froze the samples instead of refrigerating them, thus making the samples unnecessary, ”she says.
Council employees who collected samples accidentally froze the samples instead of placing them in the refrigerator (stock)
“I am literally amazed that this could have happened! And at the time of the highest annual traffic volume for Byron for tourism!
The council did not respond to inquiries by phone or email.
Mr Corben said no results had been available for the two Byron Shire test sites since the week ending December 5.
He said there were many logistical challenges in transporting the samples from the NSW area to Sydney.
“An operational error during collection led to the freezing of recent samples rather than refrigeration, and therefore the inability to analyze them upon receipt by NSW Health,” he said.
The North Coast Public Health Unit has issued clarifying guidance to the council on the correct handling of samples to avoid further issues with sample analysis.
Byron Shire’s board informed that a sample was collected yesterday [Wednesday] and will be tested after reaching the Sydney lab.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted the Byron Shire Council and NSW Health for their comment.
The error was discovered after the samples were sent to an NSW health lab for testing
NSW on Thursday reported 10 cases of community transmission of coronavirus as the Western Interior Cluster expands from a mysterious source.
Of those five, they were linked to the North Sydney Beaches cluster, after nearly 28,000 tests carried out at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
The so-called Avalon cluster, which erupted earlier this month, now totals 144.
Three of the 10 cases of COVID-19 are linked to the Croydon cluster in western Sydney, and the source of this infection is still under investigation.
A total of nine people are now associated with the hot spot after six infected people from the same extended family were detected on Wednesday.
Of the other two cases reported on Thursday, one is close contact from a previously reported infected patient transport driver and the other is from western Sydney and the source is under investigation.
Residents of Northern Beaches line up to be tested at a pop-up Covid-19 testing center in Avalon on December 18
Authorities are also investigating two cases of COVID-19 involving a pair of women from the same household in Wollongong, on the south coast of New South Wales.
Hundreds of people have been tested for the virus in the city and the government expects to have a clearer picture of any spread within the next 24 to 48 hours.
But Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said she was happy the number of cases dropped to 10 from 18 the day before.
“It’s so nice that we’ve seen the numbers go down today, but it’s very volatile,” Ms. Berejiklian said.
“They will bounce back.
“What’s really important to all of us is doing whatever we can to reduce our mobility, reduce the number of people we mingle with, and make sure we follow the rules and health advice.