News State NSW News More than 3000 virus cases in NSW, two more deaths
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More than 3000 virus cases in NSW, two more deaths

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The more they test, the higher NSW's COVID tally grows. Photo: Getty
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COVID-19 continues to surge in NSW as the state clocks up another record, with 3057 cases as requirements for international arrivals eased on Tuesday.

The infections in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday were up 556 on the previous day’s 2501 cases.

There are 284 COVID-19 patients in hospital – up from 261 on Monday. Numbers in intensive care have climbed to 39 from 33.

Two people died and 136,972 tests were carried out.

Meanwhile, NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns is isolating after one of his staffers contracted the virus.

Mr Minns said he had been tested and was awaiting his result at his Kogarah home. He criticised Premier Dominic Perrottet’s refusal to listen to health experts and reintroduce mask mandates indoors.

He said it was putting Christmas celebrations in jeopardy as cases spiralled, forcing thousands into isolation.

“The main thing here is that Christmas isn’t ruined and we don’t go back into lockdown,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.

Introducing mask mandates would make sense and be easy, he said.

“We’ve gotten used to wearing masks, there’s strong evidence they work – preventing the disease from spreading more than it otherwise would.”

The Royal Australian College of Physicians is the latest medical body encouraging state and territory governments to reintroduce COVID-19 restrictions to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.

RACP president John Wilson said he was wary of the increasing COVID cases in states such as NSW.

“If not checked, a surge in cases will further burden our already exhausted health systems due to an overwhelming rise in hospitalisations.

“The relaxation of restrictions in some jurisdictions, especially those associated with mask-wearing, QR code check-ins and large gatherings, can have dire consequences,” he said.

The NSW vaccination rate remains the same with 94.9 per cent of people aged 16 and older having had one dose, while 93.4 per cent of people are fully jabbed.

Some 81.4 per cent of people aged 12-15 have had one dose of a vaccine and 78.1 per cent have had both doses.

From Tuesday fully vaccinated travellers will no longer have to isolate for 72 hours.

Overseas arrivals to Sydney will have to get a COVID-19 PCR test within 24 hours and isolate at home until they return a negative result.

Unvaccinated adult travellers are still required to complete 14 days of hotel quarantine.

The new rules are in line with Victoria but international travellers in NSW must also undergo another test on the sixth day after arriving.

International flight crew members who arrive in Australia and are fully vaccinated must self-isolate until they have a negative COVID test, or until they fly out of Australia.

NSW Health is urging people to keep wearing masks indoors and health experts are calling for a return to mask mandates indoors, as nervous people cancel or reconsider summer holiday travel plans.

Meanwhile, there are long queues at testing facilities as people sought reassurance they wouldn’t have to go into isolation for Christmas and pharmacies and shops are running out of rapid antigen tests.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia national president Trent Twomey said there were sufficient supplies in Australia but they needed to be distributed to where demand is greatest.

“They are all at their major distribution hubs, which are down in Victoria,” he told the Nine Network on Tuesday.

Pharmacies would get more deliveries by Wednesday.

“They assure us over the next 24 hours there will be trucks and ships and trains and all sorts of things getting that stock out of major distribution hubs in Melbourne out to the rest of the states and territories,” he said.

Meanwhile, Newcastle remains the epicentre of the COVID-19 Omicron cluster. More than a quarter – 660 – of NSW’s virus cases on Sunday were in the Hunter, and there are 4368 active cases in the district.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant has urged caution this Christmas and recommends people take a rapid antigen test before going to an indoor gathering.

“Choose outdoor, well-ventilated places for gatherings and limit the size of those gatherings,” she said.

Chief medical officer Dr Paul Kelly has also reportedly recommended “minimal to moderate restrictions”, including a mask mandate in all indoor settings, to curb the escalating Omicron spread.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called an “informal” national cabinet meeting of state and territory heads for Wednesday to discuss the threat of the variant.

He is due to update the first ministers with the most recent information on Omicron and urge them to stay calm and provide consistent border arrangements ahead of the holidays.

The time frame of booster shots will also be discussed, with several states pushing for a shortened interval.

Nine newspapers have also reported that Australia’s vaccine advisory body, ATAGI, is reviewing whether three doses will be required to be considered fully immunised.

-with AAP