News Coronavirus First Omicron death reported in NSW
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First Omicron death reported in NSW

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Hospitalisations in NSW have doubled in just one week. Photo: AAP
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NSW has recorded its first death linked to the Omicron COVID-19 variant, amid a surge of cases that has seen the number of people hospitalised across the state double in the past week.

Some 6324 new infections were diagnosed from more than 97,000 tests on Sunday, with the state also reporting another three deaths.

Among them was a man in his 80s who became the state’s first Omicron death, NSW Health says.

The man acquired his infection at the Uniting Lilian Wells aged care facility in North Parramatta. He was fully vaccinated but had underlying health conditions.

Another man in his 80s and a woman in her 90s also died.

While new cases dropped by 70, the number of people hospitalised has doubled in the past week.

A total of 520 people are in hospital, 55 of them in intensive care and 17 ventilated.

Testing numbers decreased by more than 12,000 compared to the day before.

The number of tests processed each day has plummeted by more than 60,000 over the past four days, as testing sites and laboratories become overwhelmed and wait times blow out.

“To ease pressure on testing clinics, we encourage you to only get a PCR test if you do have COVID-19 symptoms, or you are a household contact, or have had a high or moderate risk exposure to COVID-19, or have been directed to be tested,” NSW Health’s Christine Selvey said.

However interstate travellers requiring a PCR test are still able to get one.

Adding to the state’s coronavirus concerns are hundreds of people who received false negative test results on Christmas Day.

More than 400 people who initially received a negative result on Christmas Day were notified on Boxing Day they had actually tested positive.

St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney is investigating the incident, believed to be a result of human error.

With infection rates rising, NSW has reverted to restrictions scrapped less than two weeks ago.

Hospitality venues return to the one person per two-square metre rule and QR codes are compulsory again from Monday.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has revealed the government is considering lifting isolation requirements for health workers exposed to COVID-19 to stem looming staffing shortages.

“I’m certainly in deep conversation over probably the last week … about whether or not it’s viable to have staff coming back sooner,” he told reporters on Sunday.

They would wear fitted P95 masks and full personal protective equipment, Mr Hazzard said.

“If you’re erring on the side of caution, it would certainly be an area that you could say probably this would be a safer option than having no staff,” he said.

Mr Hazzard also warned everyone in Australia was likely to be infected with the Omicron variant at some stage. 

It is highly likely everyone will spend 10 days in isolation in the next two or three years, he said, but noted symptoms appear milder and the current approach to isolation may change.

His comments drew criticism from NSW Labor health spokesman Ryan Park.

“Where’s the planning and where’s the resources and where’s the leadership?” Mr Park said.

More than four in five NSW residents aged between 12 and 15 are now fully vaccinated. This increases to 93.5 per cent for people aged 16 and over.

– AAP