Some of NSW’s poorest residents will be able to get 10 free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, but calls remain for them to be free for everyone amid 34,994 new cases and six deaths.
The state’s new cases came from 111,231 tests to 8 pm on Wednesday, meaning about 31 per cent of tests were positive.
The six deaths came as the number of people in hospital (1609) and intensive care units (131) continued to rise.
Many of NSW’s testing sites and pathology labs remain strained.
But the government continues to face calls to provide free tests for everyone.
After a national cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a limited number of rapid antigen tests would be provided free to six million concession card holders across Australia, with each person able to get 10 over the next three months.
However, the changes will not yet help NSW keep track of its escalating infections, with the scheme not expected to be up and running for a fortnight.
Rapid tests will remain in short supply and testing sites overwhelmed in the meantime.
NSW reported another record number of new cases on Wednesday, with 35,054 infections diagnosed from 108,844 tests, and Premier Dominic Perrottet warned the state was in for a challenging few weeks.
He said the government was doing everything it can to drive down testing delays while waiting for some of the 50 million rapid antigen tests it has ordered to arrive.
He also flagged the potential for more people in NSW to be offered the tests for free.
“There is no dollar figure that we will not put on the table to ensure … rapid antigen tests are available to anybody right across the state who needs one,” Mr Perrottet said.
But NSW Labor leader Chris Minns, who has been lobbying for the rapid tests to be made free for two weeks, on Wednesday night said the premier hadn’t done enough.
Mr Perrottet has missed the opportunity to prevent the state’s “testing disaster” and provide the rapid tests when they are most needed, the opposition leader said.
“(It’s a) missed opportunity to help protect all the important work we did together to slow the spread,” Mr Minns tweeted.