NSW records 12,226 COVID-19 cases and one death

NSW has recorded 12,226 new COVID-19 cases and one death in the latest reporting period.

That is an increase from the 11,201 cases recorded yesterday.

Hospitalisations have risen to 746, up from 625, and there are now 63 patients in intensive care.

Some 97,201 COVID swabs were taken on Wednesday, compared to almost 158,000 the day before.

The fall came after Queensland decided to scrap its PCR test requirement for interstate travellers, and the NSW government instructed people to only come out for testing if they were required to, or had symptoms.

Premier Dominic Perrottet also asked NSW Health to work with public and private hospitals to remove the requirement for pregnant women and mothers visiting babies in intensive care to have PCR tests every day.

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In previous days people have had to wait up to nine hours in COVID testing queues and have not received results for up to six days.

Private pathology company 4Cyte last night told the ABC it warned governments the system would collapse once travel test requirements came into effect.

“We would like to state that we warned the Victorian and Queensland governments three weeks ago that the requirements for travel – domestic, international and returned travellers were going to create a problem for pathology companies to meet the strict time limits,” 4Cyte said in a statement.

The pathology company said travel tests combined with a massive rise in positive cases and close contact notifications had created a “perfect storm”.

It said the public’s uptake of rapid antigen tests had put more pressure on the system, with anybody testing positive at home then having to present for PCR testing.

Positive patients then require repeat testing in laboratories, which further adds to delays.

“Please also take into account loss of staff due to COVID infection or household contact of a positive COVID patient,” 4cyte said.

“Our staff have worked non-stop for the last three weeks, including the public holidays, in an attempt to help people with their holiday plans and celebrations.

“One day last week, we logged almost 100,000 phone calls which is impossible for any company to answer.”

Yesterday NSW Health announced it would start prioritising “clinically urgent” cases at testing clinics and advised holiday-makers not to turn out for testing to ease pressure on clinics and staff.

However, the Northern Territory and Tasmania still require interstate travellers to have a PCR test before arriving, meaning long waits for anyone planning to travel to these jurisdictions.

NSW Health says travellers intending to holiday in Queensland will not get their results back before that state’s PCR requirement is scrapped on January 1.

National cabinet is meeting today, as COVID cases continue to hit record levels and the PCR test system grapples with long delays.

Leaders will be asked to relax the rules around who is a close contact, with Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly saying the current testing requirements for close contacts are no longer practical.

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