NSW authorities insist there is light at the end of the tunnel as the latest tally of COVID infections approaches 50,000 but remains below even the best-case projections of epidemiologists.
In a case of badnews/good news, NSW has recorded almost 50,000 new COVID-19 cases and a further 20 deaths, with public health authorities reassuring the state that the mutant Omicron wave is near its peak.
Some 48,768 positive results were returned in the latest 24-hour reporting period, just under 22,000 of them collected from rapid antigen kits – although around 15,000 of these were returns from the previous seven days.
There are currently 2576 virus patients in NSW hospitals, slightly up on the 2525 reported on Friday. Of them, 193 are in intensive care units.
The state is now 93.8 per cent double dosed against COVID-19 for eligible residents aged 16 or over.
A touch more than 24 per cent have also had a booster dose, while 8.9 per cent of NSW children aged five-11 have now received their first jab.
Pandemic set to peak?
While more people are dying with coronavirus in NSW than at any other time during the pandemic authorities maintain things are going better than expected and predict the outbreak will soon peak.
Saturday’s fatalities bring the tally to 146 deaths reported over the past eight days, though a portion of those are understood to be historic and were classified by authorities following coronial investigations.
Grim, but better than expected
Worst-case scenario modelling suggested 6000 people could be in hospital at the peak of the outbreak, with 10 per cent of those in intensive care.
Even the best-case scenario predictions paint a grimmer picture than the current reality, estimating 3158 people would be in hospital.
Still, NSW Health Deputy Secretary Susan Pearce said on Friday hospital systems were still under immense strain.
“Please don’t read that as meaning that our whole system is not under pressure,” she said.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said the state had “a difficult few weeks ahead” but things not currently being as bad as feared was “very reassuring and encouraging”.
Opposition Leader Chris Minns criticised the government for not preparing in December for the expected surge in cases.
“Instead, we’re seeing our frontline workers, who’ve already put in enormous amounts of effort over the last two years, go through enormous stress in the last fortnight,” he told reporters.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant warned about half the people in NSW could become infected during the Omicron wave, though some would be asymptomatic and may never even know they had contracted coronavirus.
Dr Chant said she was “really horrified” by suggestions people could be hosting parties deliberately trying to get infected.
“Although we’ve talked about Omicron being a milder disease, it can still cause serious consequences,” she said.
One large gathering that provoked ire from the public will not result in a fine however.
Hillsong’s summer camp, footage of which showed maskless young people dancing and singing to loud music, prompted outrage days after music festivals were cancelled.
The church organisation apologised for “giving any perception that we were not playing our part to keep NSW safe” and said the amount of time spent singing over the three-day event was “minor”.
Meanwhile, the number of positive cases among detainees at Villawood detention centre has at least tripled since the confirmation of six cases in an outbreak on Tuesday.
However reports from inside the facility suggest the case number could be as high as 68.