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NSW’s 2213 new virus cases a threat to Christmas

nsw christmas covid omicron
NSW's surging virus cases have sparked another year of pre-Christmas jitters. Photo: Getty
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For the second December in a row, the coronavirus is causing jitters across NSW in the lead-up to Christmas.

The state posted a record number of new infections for the second day in a row on Friday, with 2213 people diagnosed with the virus from more than 127,000 tests in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday.

The escalating case numbers are being driven by superspreading events at large venues such as pubs and nightclubs, exacerbated by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

The rising transmission rates have prompted NSW Health to restrict visits to health facilities.

Patients will be allowed visitors for compassionate reasons only and to provide essential needs, including palliative care and supporting women in childbirth.

All visitors must be fully vaccinated and follow mask-wearing rules.

“We have temporarily restricted visitors to healthcare facilities due to increasing transmission rates with the emergence of the Omicron variant,” NSW Health tweeted on Thursday night.

“We have not made this decision lightly. We must always prioritise our vulnerable patients and staff who are arguably the most vital workers needed in a pandemic.”

The latest significant cluster emerged from a Taylor Swift-themed dance party in the Sydney CBD on Friday.

At least 97 people have tested positive so far, NSW Health said on Thursday night, with at least some of the cases likely to be the Omicron variant.

All 600 people who arrived at the Metro Theatre after 9pm were designated close contacts and forced to isolate for a week.

A series of superspreader events in Newcastle has caused a wave of infections in the Hunter area.

The majority are the Omicron variant.

Two 20-year-old men have been fined for attending one of the events – a Wednesday night party at a nightclub – in defiance of self-isolation orders after they were designated as close contacts.

They both later tested positive. More than 200 people contracted the virus at the party.

Health authorities have urged the Newcastle community to consider delaying social events until after Christmas to keep family gatherings safe.

Authorities are so concerned by the situation they ordered the cancellation of the Lunar Electric music festival that had been scheduled for Newcastle on Saturday.

“NSW Health considered that the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in the Newcastle area, where the majority of a record number of cases are the Omicron variant of concern, presents too great a risk for the festival to take place this weekend,” NSW Health said in a statement on Thursday.

It comes exactly a year after a Sydney airport worker tested positive after a run of COVID-zero in NSW.

That case set in motion a virus outbreak in Sydney’s northern beaches, with the peninsula locked down and the rest of Sydney subject to caps on numbers for Christmas and New Year’s Eve events.

Premier Dominic Perrottet is adamant he won’t go back to the lockdowns and restrictions that dominated before NSW reached its high vaccination rate – currently 93.3 per cent.

The rules for masks and check-ins were relaxed on Wednesday despite the rising case numbers, with the unvaccinated now able to participate fully in society.

One new death was also announced on Friday, with 215 people in hospital – up from 23 on the day before. They include 24 in intensive care.

Intensive care numbers in NSW peaked at 244 in September, 10 days after the state had its previous record of 1599 local cases.

-AAP