The WA Government’s Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) has released the following updates, Tuesday, 10 November, regarding changes to WA’s border restrictions and wastewater testing.

Changes to WA border restrictions

With just days before changes to Western Australia’s hard borders, work is intensifying to ensure every precaution is in place to keep the community COVID-19 safe. Since the start of the year, the WA health system has been assessing, preparing and reassessing its capabilities in response to COVID-19 – learning and re-evaluating based on world events. The Department of Health is working with Government agencies and airlines to prepare for the controlled border changes and the expected influx of arrivals into the State from 14 November.

WA Health nursing staff will be boosted at Perth Airport to meet demands of increased passenger arrivals and preparations at Perth Airport are underway to ensure that passenger arrival processes are seamless. This includes identifying the use of suitable terminals and gates at Perth Airport for the arrival of passengers from very low risk (Category 1) and low risk states (Category 2), ensuring infection control processes are in place as well as steps to prevent co-mingling between the two categories of arrivals.

Health screening of passengers will continue for all arriving passengers. COVID-19 testing will be available at the airport for those who fail health screens; and for any other arrivals who would like to be tested.

Passengers arriving from Category 2 states (currently Victoria and New South Wales) are still required to self-quarantine for 14 days and must attend a COVID clinic for a test on day 11.

Wastewater testing

Western Australia’s wastewater testing for COVID-19 has commenced, following extensive scientific preparation and analysis. The testing is a collaboration between the Department of Health, PathWest and the Water Corporation.

The best available techniques and equipment have been used so that we can provide the most technically advanced testing methods, ensuring that the science and objectives help inform WA’s response to COVID-19. The initial tests were performed on previously collected (historical) samples from a wastewater catchment area where positive cases of COVID-19 were residing at the time.

While there are still unknowns in relation to the duration of faecal shedding of COVID-19, the initial samples tested have shown some positive results, indicating that the COVID-19 virus can be detected in wastewater sampled from a catchment area with positive cases. It is important to note that these tests on historical samples detect fragments of the COVID-19 virus. The virus is not live in the water and a positive result does not indicate any current community COVID-19 cases.

The focus will now turn to testing of fresh samples collected from this week, to assist with ongoing surveillance for the virus in our communities.