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NSW reports 9243 cases as restrictions ease

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Businesses have welcomed the easing of COVID-19 restrictions across NSW. Photo: AAP
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NSW has reported 9243 COVID cases and 15 deaths as many virus restrictions ease.

Hospitalisations fell again on Friday to 1381, while ICU admissions remained steady, with 92 people in intensive care with COVID across the state.

Some 46.1 per cent of primary school-aged children in NSW have received their first vaccine dose, while 78.9 per cent of children aged 12-15 have had two.

Research released on Friday showed NSW has been able to safely return children to classrooms.

The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance has tracked coronavirus transmission in schools, in conjunction with Sydney University, NSW Health and the education department.

The study was led by Sydney University paediatric infectious disease specialist Dr Archana Koirala, who said there wasn’t a dramatic increase in transmission in school settings despite high numbers of exposures in the final term of last year.

“Our findings confirm that vaccination of students and teachers, as well as other mitigation measures in schools and the wider community, can keep transmission low in educational settings,” Dr Koirala said.

The data predates the peak of the Omicron outbreak.

Meanwhile, the teachers union has called on the NSW government to continue providing free rapid tests to students and teachers for at least another six weeks.

Parents reported 12,000 positive RATs in the week beginning February 7.

More than 90 per cent of parents have been using the testing kits provided by their schools, according to a recent survey of more than 80,000 parents.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the “comprehensive RAT program has helped school staff and students feel more confident about being back on school grounds”.

The program, up for review after week four of term, has recently been extended for another six weeks in Victoria, and another four in the ACT.

The testing regime remained “essential”, the Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT said.

Elsewhere, business groups have welcomed the early easing of restrictions across NSW, saying it had been “tumultuous” trading within COVID-19 rules.

Dancing and singing returned in NSW on Friday, as restrictions were rolled back earlier than expected across the state in time for the weekend.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said it had been a “very difficult two years here in our state”.

“Many people have made enormous sacrifices but the efforts that have been made … ensured we’ve seen downward pressure on our hospital system,” he said on Thursday.

Singing and dancing can resume in most settings, the two-metre density limit for indoor venues has been scrapped, and QR check-ins are now only required for nightclubs and music festivals with more than 1000 revellers.

The requirement to wear face masks will also cease in most settings next Friday.

Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter said it meant businesses could “plan for their future”.

Workers will return to offices and revitalise city centres, “supporting small businesses that have been on their knees”.

-AAP