Covid-19 Australia: NSW records 45,098 new cases and nine deaths as restrictions return

NSW has recorded 45,098 new infections and nine deaths as the state brings back restrictions despite new data warning of its damaging impact to the economy.

The new cases announced on Saturday marks the highest daily number of infections ever recorded in the state and a sharp spike on the 38,625 cases reported on Friday. 

Hospitalisations have slightly increased with 1,795 patients being treated – up from 1,738 – and ICU figures have climbed to 145 – up from 134. 

Meanwhile, Victoria set a new pandemic record with 51,356 new Covid-19 cases and nine deaths. In a surprising twist, hospitalisation rates have remained steady with 644 patients being treated by nurses. 

The NSW government reintroduced a raft of new restrictions, banning singing or dancing in pubs or clubs until January 27, except for weddings, performers or classes.

The changes come as new economic statistics revealed the damaging impact of restrictions on spending with residents across NSW, and the rest of Australia, buying less than ever before. 

NSW has recorded 45,098 new infections and nine deaths as the state brings back restrictions with new economic data revealing the damaging impact of the pandemic on spending habits

The new cases announced on Saturday marks the highest daily number of infections ever recorded in the state and a sharp spike on the 38,625 cases reported on Friday

Spending rates in Sydney from the week to January 5 were the lowest they have been since the pandemic began in March 2020, data from ANZ Bank shows.

More Victorians are also voluntarily isolating themselves as much as possible with Melbourne’s spending habits close to what they were during the city’s six mass lockdowns. 

Head of ANZ’s Australian Economics David Plan said the result means shops were now struggling to get by as they were in lockdown – but this time there’s no significant financial support from the government after JobKeeper ended in March. 

‘The data shows starkly how behaviour is impacted by surging case numbers even without government intervention,’ he said.

‘A big issue this time is there is no government support as we aren’t formally in lockdown. It will be interesting to see how governments, federal and state, respond to this.’ 

ANZ Senior Economist Adelaide Timbrell said the combination of Australians cautious to leave home was made worse by staff shortages with thousands forced into isolation.

‘In Melbourne specifically and Victoria overall spending is not as low as during Delta lockdowns and it recovered faster after Delta lockdowns than Sydney, which seems to have been hit harder by interstate travel rules through the last year,’ she said in a report released this week. 

Under the changes in NSW, some high-risk major events may also be contacted by health authorities and forced to implement restrictions to be deemed Covid-safe.

The Tamworth Country Musical Festival organisers on Friday announced the event, due to start in a week, would be postponed as a result.

The government on Friday announced non-urgent elective surgery will be suspended until mid-February, releasing new modelling that predicts the impact of the Omicron variant on the health system.

Under the ‘most realistic’ scenario, the state will need 4700 hospital beds at the peak of the outbreak, 273 of them in ICU.

The NSW premier has defended the decision to ease restrictions as the state’s Omicron COVID-19 outbreak took hold, after reinstating many of them within in a month 

Some high-risk major events may also be contacted by health authorities and forced to implement restrictions to be deemed COVID-safe 

Comparatively, at the peak of the Delta outbreak in September, there were 1266 people in hospital with infections and 244 in intensive care.

Asked several times whether easing restrictions in December, only to reinstate many of them within a month, was the right call, Mr Perrottet said the Omicron variant required a different response.

‘It is much, much less severe, and the approach we’ve taken is the right approach,’ he said.

‘Clearly in the middle of a pandemic, when cases arise, that will dampen confidence but ultimately, the alternative is to lock down.’

Asked if he’d give his government a ‘gold star’ for it’s decision-making, he doubled down.

‘The approach this government has taken every step of the way over the last two years has ensured we have one of the lowest death rates in the world, and at the same time one of the strongest economies in the world.’

Case numbers reached 38,625 on Friday with 11 reported deaths, while the number of people in hospital is just 1,738, with 134 in intensive care units

But state opposition leader Chris Minns has criticised his comments.

‘If that’s his idea of success, I’d hate to hear what his idea of failure is,’ he told reporters on Friday.

‘At the end of the day, the premier told the people of NSW who raised concerns about hospital overcrowding and rising case numbers that they were being alarmist or they were being bed wetters.’

Mr Perrottet on Friday also announced NSW will join Western Australia in requiring teachers, health workers and those in frontline disability roles to get a booster shot to be considered ‘fully vaccinated’ against COVID-19.

More to come