Hospitalisations rise as NSW records 5612 new COVID-19 cases

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NSW has 382 people in hospital with COVID-19, up from 347 on Thursday, as the state recorded 5612 new cases.

Fifty three patients are being treated in intensive care, compared to 45 on Thursday and 244 in September. One person died with the virus.

The pre-Christmas rush for COVID testing ratcheted up even further, with 164,144 tests, the highest in several months. In response NSW Health is asking people to only get swabbed if they have symptoms or are close contacts.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced on Thursday the reintroduction of some restrictions as COVID-19 case numbers grow, particularly in the Sydney CBD and Newcastle.

Masks are now required to be worn indoors, including in offices, until January 27. Density limits of one person per two square meters in hospitality venues will return on December 27, for a month.

QR code check-ins will resume for retail and hospitality after Boxing Day, despite NSW Health focusing contact tracing efforts on household contacts of confirmed cases. Anyone who can work from home is encouraged to do so.

About 1500 hospital workers across the state’s health system are isolating due to COVID, and some staff have been asked to reconsider taking Christmas leave to bolster the workforce as the outbreak grows.

Paramedics across Sydney are reporting record numbers of triple zero calls, with wait times of up to an hour for the highest level life-threatening emergencies.

With the state processing more than 1 million tests in the past week and clinics swamped by a pre-Christmas travel rush, people are now being advised against seeking PCR swabs unless they are symptomatic, are close contacts or otherwise advised by NSW Health to do so.

“If you don’t feel unwell, you don’t need to be tested,” Mr Perrottet said. “Many people across the state who are asymptomatic, who do not feel unwell, are lining up for a PCR test. This is putting enormous pressure on the system.”

Long delays for PCR tests and results has caused NSW Health to request only people with symptoms or close contacts to get swabbed.Credit:Flavio Brancaleone

The Newcastle and City of Sydney local government areas have recorded the highest number of cases in the past week, with large clusters linked to social gatherings driving up transmission.

New data from the UK overnight shows the Omicron strain appears to be less severe than previous variants, despite being more contagious. Someone with Omicron is up to 70 per cent less likely to be hospitalised, compared with the Delta strain, the UK government said.

With Lucy Carroll and Tom Rabe

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