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NSW hospital rules under review, as virus cases rise

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NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard says COVID-19 cases could double in the state by mid-April. Photo: AAP
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The number of COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals has fallen below 2000 but new cases of the virus and deaths have increased as strict hospital visiting rules are being reviewed.

While the number of COVID infections across the state has peaked and fallen, the number of people dying with the virus remains stubbornly high.

There were 20 more deaths reported on Wednesday, as well as 10,312 new cases.

Some 1906 people remain in hospital with the virus, with 132 in intensive care.

Meanwhile, visiting rules in public hospitals are under review after a backlash from families who have been unable to spend time with dying relatives.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard has been under pressure after several people told heartbreaking stories about their loved ones dying alone because of strict visiting rules in public hospitals.

Mr Hazzard said it was difficult to strike a balance between showing compassion to families and protecting other patients from COVID-19.

“I am working with NSW Health and with the doctors and with the nurses to develop a set of guidelines which hopefully strike the balance and making sure there is compassion and care,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Wednesday.

“What I have said to [NSW] Health is surely, surely compassion, concern and common sense should be at the centre of what’s happening.”

About 2.5 million people entered the state’s hospital system every year and the welfare of all patients had to be considered, he said.

“It is a really difficult situation,” he said.

More than 1600 people have died in NSW from COVID and more than a million have contracted the virus.

In some hospitals there had been major breakouts of the virus, which led to more deaths.

“It’s a constant balancing act,” Mr Hazard said.

Meanwhile, rapid testing in NSW schools is “unlikely” to continue past the fourth week of term, despite filling an important role in the return of children to classrooms.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Tuesday it was unlikely RAT use would continue beyond the end of February, with the government “assessing what we’re going to do from week four [of term] onwards”.

On Friday it was announced the education department was distributing 17.5 million more tests to maintain testing protocols until then.

More than 3000 people – about 2400 students and more than 600 school workers – tested positive to coronavirus in the first week of term.

Teachers Federation NSW president Angelo Gavrielatos said the union would seek “further discussions with senior officials … in order to see how things may progress beyond that four-week period”.

“There’s no doubt that the rapid antigen testing is identifying people who would otherwise be in schools infected,” he said on Friday.

Some 43.6 per cent of primary school-aged children in NSW have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

The outbreak in NSW has subsided from its heights in mid-January, with cases increasing on Tuesday, but remaining in the thousands.

-AAP