New South Wales has recorded 12,226 new cases of coronavirus ahead of a national cabinet meeting responding to the Omicron outbreak that has caused a surge in cases around the country.
The state’s new infections came as the results of 97,201 tests were returned in the 24 hours to 8 pm on Wednesday.
One death was reported and there are now 746 people in hospital, with 63 of them in intensive care.
On Wednesday, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant warned “there is probably more disease in the community than the numbers reflect” as testing laboratories clear backlogs.
The daily caseload hit 11,201 new infections on Wednesday — up more than 5000 on the previous day’s 6062 — along with three deaths.
The spiking case numbers follow NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard’s December 15 warning that modelling suggested “by the end of January, we could be looking at 25,000 cases of the virus every single day”.
Premier Dominic Perrottet will join his state and territory counterparts at an emergency national cabinet meeting on Thursday, seeking countrywide consistency on close contact definitions and isolation periods.
Rapid antigen tests – and the crucial question of who pays for them – are also expected to be on the agenda as a number of states and territories join NSW in reporting record-high daily case numbers as the Omicron variant takes hold around the country.
“I certainly believe it would be best if we had a national approach and I certainly look forward to having those discussions as we move through the meeting,” Mr Perrottet said on Wednesday.
In addition to the Omicron variant sparking close contact alerts as positive case numbers surge, PCR test requirements for interstate travel have also caused significant delays to results.
“There are many people who are lining up in those queues who do not need to be there,” Mr Perrottet said.
NSW is now advising people to only line up for PCR tests if they are unwell, or if they have been told to get tested by NSW Health.
The state on Wednesday ordered an additional 30 million rapid antigen tests, the premier said, adding to 20 million that are expected to arrive next month.
“We want to make sure these tests are available to those who need them … but ultimately for those people who have less financial means, who are more vulnerable, then the state is there to support that,” Mr Perrottet said.
On Wednesday NSW had 625 people in hospital with the virus, 61 of them in intensive care, with 23 on ventilators.
Mr Perrottet says it is “incredibly pleasing” the state still has strong capacity in hospitals and intensive care units, giving credit to a high vaccination rate and boosters for those eligible.