The NSW entertainment industry is reeling from new COVID-19 restrictions as the state waits for a way to register the results of rapid tests.
The state recorded another 25,870 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, but with testing numbers the lowest they have been all year and no way to track results of rapid tests, the number of positive cases is thought to be much higher.
On Tuesday, restrictions on music festivals came into force requiring organisers to ensure no one sings or dances on the premises aside from performers after an amendment signed off by chief health officer Kerry Chant.
Organisers of the Grapevine Gathering music and wine festival in the Hunter Valley say they’re “extremely heartbroken” to be cancelling the event four days before it was due to go ahead in another “devastating blow not only to the live music industry, but also to regional tourism”.
"An incredibly sad day for live music" https://t.co/shGlekBFJx
— Music Feeds (@musicfeeds) January 11, 2022
“Grapevine Gathering NSW has had an approved COVIDsafe plan for months and we have been in constant communication with the NSW government regarding all required safety measures,” the organisers said in a statement.
“We are deeply sorry this news has come at the final hour.”
The new cases reported on Tuesday were detected from just over 71,000 PCR laboratory tests, and push the state past the milestone of 500,000 cases since the pandemic began.
But NSW Health has warned current daily case numbers are conservative because RAT results are yet to be officially included.
The state will this week move into a dual reporting system for infections that includes positive, self-administered RAT results – reported through the ServiceNSW app – and the normal PCR results.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard told The Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday the government wants to mandate the reporting of positive RAT results once the state provides a way to report them.
Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure said the move would be “a great step forward” and rejected concerns it could disproportionately impact multicultural communities.
“There are multicultural communities out there that won’t understand the new changes, (but) my job as minister is to ensure that they do and that material will be out soon,” he told reporters.
Opposition Leader Chris Minns said the government needs to avoid a repeat of the Delta lockdown when it was “very slow in communicating with multicultural communities what their obligations were”.
NSW on Monday recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic, with 18 fatalities including a three-year-old boy who had significant underlying health conditions.
Another 11 deaths were reported on Tuesday: Six women and five men, aged between their 70s and 90s. Two were unvaccinated.
Some 170 people are in intensive care, about half of whom are unvaccinated, and 51 are ventilated.
The total number of people in hospital also climbed to 2186.
While the transition to a system that relies more heavily on rapid, at-home tests has been welcomed, the test kits remain in short supply in NSW.
The state government has ordered 50 million tests, with the first to begin arriving this week, and is planning to purchase another 50 million.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union says some of those tests need to be provided to transport and logistics workers for free.
The Transport Workers Union has called on government MPs to donate rapid tests they’re being provided for themselves and staff to essential transport workers in their electorate and for the government to make them free for workers as soon as possible.
However, Premier Dominic Perrottet on Monday said the government would focus on providing the tests in other critical areas first.
“Our No.1 priority is to use the rapid antigen tests that were procured … in those areas such as schools, social housing, vulnerable communities, Indigenous communities … (and) regional and remote communities,” he said.
The rest of NSW can expect to see “a substantial amount of supply being available through private supply chains as well”, he added.