NSW has posted a record 1742 daily coronavirus infections, as cases continue to surge across the state.
It is the highest number for NSW in a 24-hour period since the pandemic began, breaking the previous record of 1603 on September 11 – and has prompted a warning localised lockdowns might be needed to help quell the surging cases.
“We’ll keep that option open,” NSW Jobs Minister Stuart Ayres told the Seven Network’s Sunrise on Thursday.
“We’ve always said that as we reopen our economy we have to learn to live with the virus. Part of that is taking localised actions.
“If we believe that is the right thing to do, then that is definitely an option on the table.”
Mr Ayres said the state government would not hesitate to act if hospitals began to be overwhelmed.
“If we start to see people who are unvaccinated making their way back into hospital because they don’t have those levels of protection, the government will take action to ensure that we protect people and protect our health system,” he said.
Thursday’s case tally is a jump of 382 on Wednesday, and up from 420 last Thursday.
This week’s explosion in cases in NSW has coincided with an easing of restrictions, with unvaccinated people allowed to mingle with the fully jabbed at shops and hospitality venues for the first time in three months.
QR code check-ins and masks have also been scaled back, and are now required in NSW only in high-risk settings such as public transport and planes. However, they are also among measures that might also return.
“Ultimately, this is all about protecting our health system. So having high case numbers is one thing, but what we’ve really got to do is make sure we’ve got less people presenting to hospital and putting demand on the health system,” Mr Ayres said.
While masks are no longer required, NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said her “clear advice” was for people to keep wearing them in indoor settings.
“Your risk of coming across Omicron is high and increasing,” she said on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, Health Minister Brad Hazzard warned cases would leap further – with modelling predicting NSW could have 25,000 cases a day by the end of January as the Omicron variant took hold.
Premier Dominic Perrottet has urged people to shift their focus from infections to the number of people in hospital.
While hospitalisations generally lag infection spikes, Mr Perrottet has “complete confidence” the state’s hospital system will cope.
On Thursday, there were 192 COVID patients in NSW hospitals, including 26 in ICU.
On Wednesday night, NSW Health issued an alert for a new venue of concern in Newcastle – the Cambridge Hotel on Hunter Street.
Anyone who attended the hotel between 6.30pm on Friday and 2.30am on Saturday is considered a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case who was there and should get tested and isolate for seven days.
All household contacts of close contacts should also be tested and self-isolate until a negative result is received.
Across NSW, the double-dose vaccination rate of those 16 and older is 93.3 per cent, while 94.8 per cent of people have had their first jab.
Some 81.4 per cent of children aged 12-15 have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 77.8 per cent are fully jabbed.
There were no deaths in NSW in the reporting period.
Victorian infections also jump
Victoria has reported 1622 COVID-19 cases and a further nine deaths, as the state slightly eases restrictions despite stubborn infection numbers and the emergence of the Omicron variant.
Thursday’s daily case figure is the highest since October 29 and leaves the state managing 12,252 active infections.
There are 384 patients in hospital, 87 of whom are actively infected with the virus in intensive care and 49 on ventilators.
The seven-day hospitalisation average is also on the rise, growing to 346.
Testers processed 80,841 results on Wednesday, while 10,816 people were vaccinated in state-run hubs.
Vaccine mandates have been scrapped in several settings in Victoria but masks remain in retail under relaxed restrictions from Thursday.
Shoppers no longer need to prove they are vaccinated to visit non-essential retail outlets, places of worship, weddings, funerals, and real estate inspections and auctions.
Victorians aged under 18 also no longer need to show proof of vaccination.
However, hair and beauty customers must still be fully vaccinated, as must all patrons of restaurants, bars and cafes.
Mask mandates will also continue in all retail settings and for hospitality workers, but will not be required at weddings and funerals.
The changes, part of pandemic orders signed by Health Minister Martin Foley on Wednesday, will remain in place until January 12.
Chief health officer Brett Sutton warned the state would have a “significant increase” in Omicron infections, pointing to the case spike in NSW and widespread infections in Europe.