NSW is again encouraging people to avoid queuing for PCR tests, ahead of a national cabinet meeting to discuss rapid antigen testing, while the state waits for the first of 50 million tests it has ordered to begin arriving late next week.
NSW reported another record for daily cases with 35,054 new COVID-19 infections from 108,844 tests, and eight deaths recorded until 8pm on Tuesday.
The number of people in hospital has risen to 1491 with 119 in intensive care, and 32 people on ventilators.
While ICU numbers are rising, the tally is short of the peak of 244 seen in September.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant says the unvaccinated, including young people, were continuing to be admitted to ICU.
“It’s reasonable to have questions… I would just urge you to talk to someone you trust, your GP, your pharmacist… and please reconsider if you’re actively chosen not to get vaccinated,” Dr Chant says.
Six men and two women died on Tuesday.
Among the deaths: a woman in her 60s who caught the virus at Gosford Hospital and later died there, an unvaccinated man in his 70s who died at the Bupa Aged Care facility in Ballina, and a man in his 90s who was a resident at Coffs Harbour Grange Aged Care Facility and died at Coffs Harbour Base hospital.
Only two of the eight people to die on Tuesday were unvaccinated.
Premier Dominic Perrottet says the next couple of weeks is going to be a challenging period and “we need everybody to keep the patience they’ve demonstrated as those case numbers increase”.
He says the state is doing everything it can to put downward pressure on testing wait times while waiting for some of the 50 million rapid antigen tests the state has ordered to arrive.
The pricing and distribution of RATs will be discussed at a national cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
“There is no dollar figure that we will not put on the table to ensure, as we move through this next phase, rapid antigen tests are available to anybody right across the state who needs one,” Mr Perrottet said.
NSW Health deputy secretary Susan Pearce said NSW is aiming to administer about 300,000 vaccines daily by the end of the month, as the eligible vaccinated receive boosters, children between 5-11 begin getting vaccinated, and others receive their first dose.
On Tuesday, NSW Health administered first dose vaccinations to 1164 people.
Opposition leader Chris Minns says the hope that NSW is through the worst of the pandemic has faded for many and “it’s clearly a time for political leadership”.
“We’ve got a premier of NSW that doesn’t seem to be listening to the community, the people of this state, or even to experts within his own government,” Mr Minns said.
He said the whole testing regime in NSW seemed to be a complete mess with people being told not to get PCR tests while RATs were scarce.
Many testing sites are operating at reduced hours until January 10.
Ms Pearce says the RATs expected to begin arriving late next week will be distributed through PCR testing clinics, as well as vulnerable communities including the homeless and Aboriginal medical services.
Meanwhile, more than 300 childcare centres were closed across NSW on Wednesday, mostly due to “health emergencies” linked to the outbreak, according to the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority.