NSW has reported its highest number of daily COVID-19 cases in six weeks, amid fears of transmission of the Omicron variant in the community.
The state confirmed its ninth infection of the new variant on Friday – a student at Regents Park Christian School in western Sydney, who has no recent overseas travel history or links to anyone who has.
Senior students at the high school have already finished for the year and others were being tested on Friday. Health Minister Brad Hazzard said results were expected later in the day.
“It is a challenge,” he said.
“I think transmission is always a concern but we again need to keep it in perspective at the moment. Worldwide, there is not a clarity around whether this particular variant is going to cause us anywhere near the problems that the earlier variants caused us.”
With local COVID cases in NSW jumping to 337 on Friday – its highest tally since October 22 – Mr Hazzard also urged people to remain cautious about the potential spread of the virus.
“To have a modest increase in the numbers is not especially concerning at this point to me because it has not seen a big increase of numbers in our hospitals,” he said.
Premier Dominic Perrottet also urged a focus on hospital cases, particularly in intensive care.
“They are the numbers that matter,” he said.
“We will always have a balanced and proportionate response. Case numbers will increase as we open up, and that is up to 15 December and beyond.”
There are 140 COVID patients in NSW hospitals, including 25 in ICU.
There were no new virus deaths in the reporting period.
Friday’s update followed confirmation of the state’s eighth Omicron infection – a traveller who flew into NSW on Sunday night after being in southern Africa – on Thursday night.
They have been in quarantine since their arrival on Singapore Airlines flight SQ231.
A child became the state’s seventh confirmed case earlier on Thursday, with urgent genomic testing on the way to confirm whether their fully vaccinated parents also have the variant.
The family’s diagnosis sparked location alerts in the Chatswood area in Sydney’s north between November 23 and Wednesday.
Casual contacts have been told to get tested and isolate while they wait for a negative result, and get tested again if they develop symptoms.
The family is in special health accommodation. They were in the community before rules were changed on Saturday as Omicron cases were detected around the world.
NSW Health is concerned they may have caught the virus while flying into Sydney on Qatar Airways flight QR908 from Doha on Tuesday last week.
The three family members had not been in southern Africa.
The department is contacting other travellers on that flight to get them tested and into isolation.
Eight countries in southern Africa are of particular concern to health authorities.
Five of the eight cases confirmed in NSW were placed into special health accommodation before they were diagnosed with the Omicron variant, having arrived after the rules for entry were changed.
The state’s vaccination rate remained at 94.6 per cent first-dose coverage and 92.6 per cent double-dose.
Restrictions will lift in NSW on December 15, or when the state hits 95 per cent vaccination rate.
From then, most restrictions will end, including for unvaccinated people.
Density limits will be scrapped, QR check-ins will only be required at high-risk venues, and masks will only have to be worn on public transport, at airports and on planes.