NSW records 3,057 new COVID-19 cases, 284 people in hospital

NSW has recorded 3,057 COVID-19 cases and two deaths just days before families and friends across the state are expected to gather for Christmas.

It is the first time daily cases have reached the 3,000 mark anywhere in Australia.

Hospitalisations again increased today to 284, up from 261 yesterday.

There are now 39 patients in intensive care.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet yesterday reiterated calls for calm, saying hospital and ICU figures were still low.

Mr Perrottet said his government’s pandemic response was about balancing keeping people safe and boosting the economy.

“The pandemic is not going away, we need to learn to live alongside it,” he said.

The state government and health experts are at loggerheads over restrictions which were eased on December 15.

Epidemiologists and medical peak bodies have called for the return of masks in indoor settings and QR code check-ins.

Mr Perrottet said people should continue to wear face masks, even though the public health order mandating them for indoor settings was scraped last week.

The uptick in cases comes just days before families and friends will celebrate after a difficult year, which included 107 days in lockdown due to the Delta outbreak.

However, tens of thousands of infected people and their close contacts may now be forced to spend the holidays in self-isolation.

NSW Health at the weekend noted Omicron was now likely the dominant strain in the state’s third outbreak.

Although scientists are still learning about the latest variant of concern, it is hoped — from the data available so far — Omicron is less severe despite its apparent hyper infectiousness.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has urged people to get their booster shot as soon as possible if they are eligible.

Some experts are concerned households on Christmas Day would become superspreader events, but Mr Perrottet said his government would be focused on ICU figures as a metric for any adjustments to public health advice. 

Peter Collignon from ANU’s School of Clinical Medicine yesterday said the roadmap should not be changed without the data to justify it.

“So far, I don’t think we have to push any panic buttons,” he said.

He said hospital admission rates had not soared, which is what he would expect if the vaccines were not providing protection against Omicron.

“Nowhere in Australia are we seeing hospitals filled with vaccinated people, nor I might say in South Africa or England either,” he said.

The latest infection figures have come from 136,972 tests.

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