NSW has recorded 3,763 COVID-19 cases and two deaths ahead of the national cabinet meeting convening to address the rise in infection numbers.
It is the highest number of daily COVID-19 infections recorded in any Australian jurisdiction.
Hospitalisations for COVID have risen to 302, up from 284 in the previous reporting period.
There are 40 patients in ICU, the highest level it’s been at since November 11.
Yesterday, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard revealed close to 1,400 healthcare workers were furloughed due to COVID-19.
He reiterated his calls for people to get a booster shot, calling it a Christmas gift “to yourself and a gift to the community”.
Mr Hazzard is expected to argue for eligibility for booster shots to be brought forward from five months to four at today’s national cabinet meeting.
LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic
Despite a rise in infections numbers, health authorities are sticking to existing public health measures but are encouraging people to socially distance and to wear masks indoors.
The government has also pushed back on calls to limit large gatherings.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet yesterday acknowledged that the increase in cases would lead to more hospital admissions but said the state was up for the challenge.
“It will be tough, but I believe we are strong enough as we have gone through every other challenge for close to two years,” Mr Perrottet said.
“We will get through this challenge.”
Amid rising case numbers, the state has been struggling with long queues at testing centres and delays for people awaiting results.
Escalating case numbers and hours-long queues for PCR tests, particularly in Sydney, has led to stores across the state selling out of rapid antigen test (RAT) packs.
RATs are home test-kits which can provide a person with a result in 15 minutes — their use has been encouraged by NSW Health.
However, high demand has caused the kits to vanish from pharmacies and supermarkets across the state.
Mr Perrottet said he would raise the supply of RATs at the national cabinet meeting.
“There’s clearly a whole range of issues right now, not unique to NSW, that are challenging, and we will work through them,” he said.
What we know about the new variant of COVID-19, Omicron
The Premier acknowledged ballooning wait times and under-pressure testing clinics in NSW and thanked the community for the “sacrifices” it was making during the current outbreak.
“That effort to wait … in queues to get tested makes a real difference,” he said.
While Mr Perrottet said he would rather the state focused on ICU figures, rather than case numbers, tens of thousands of infected people and their close contacts will be forced to spend the holidays in self-isolation.
Some experts are concerned that households on Christmas Day will become superspreader events.
Cases are also projected to increase beyond Christmas and Boxing Day, with “preliminary” modelling provided by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) indicating the state could reach up to 25,000 infections a day by the end of January.
The latest case figures were taken from 151,443 tests.