More than 200 people have now tested positive after Newcastle superspreader event

The unvaccinated will be able to socialise in public and shop freely as restrictions ease in NSW, just as COVID-19 cases surge in the lead up to Christmas.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard. Source: AAP

NSW will open up to the unvaccinated just as COVID-19 cases start to spiral, and the highly transmissible Omicron variant takes hold in Newcastle.

More than 200 of the 680 people who attended Newcastle's Argyle House nightclub on Wednesday night have tested positive.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard told Radio 2GB on Tuesday afternoon that a person at the nightclub appeared to have defied an order to self-isolate after being exposed at a boat party a few days earlier.

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His department will look at the case and consider a referral to police.

Despite the outbreak, Mr Hazzard earlier confirmed the government would stick to its pledge to allow the unvaccinated to mix freely when a raft of restrictions lift on Wednesday.

"We're not about to start backflipping on issues we promised," he said on Tuesday morning.

He was speaking after NSW Health revealed infections are surging, with 804 new cases. That includes 21 of the Omicron variant, taking total cases of the new strain to 85.

The tally is the highest since 2 October, when Greater Sydney was in the midst of a tough lockdown.

The spike in infections comes less than two weeks before Christmas, as several restrictions and mask mandates will be eased.

NSW Health is battling to contain several large transmission events, with a focus on Newcastle after two super-spreader events at the Argyle House and a pub.

There were 224 new infections in Newcastle reported to 8pm on Monday, at which point the Argyle House tally stood at about 150.

However, Mr Hazzard said the government was not planning on any snap lockdowns, even in Newcastle.

The latest alert was issued on Monday night for anyone who was at Newcastle's Finnegan's Hotel between 6.30pm on Friday and 2.30am on Saturday, where at least six people were infected.



Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said numbers would continue to rise off the back of the super-spreading events.

"We are of the belief that Omicron transmission is accounting for our increased case numbers," Dr Chant said.

Mr Hazzard urged those who are eligible to get their booster shot.

He later said the federal immunisation advisory body - the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) - should move forward the booster dose interval from five months.

"I would be saying to ATAGI, 'You've been a bit slow on the uptake a few times' ... (The evidence) is pretty well there that people after about three or four months, if they have drop-off of the vaccine, they should be able to get it," he said.



Mr Hazzard warned once the unvaccinated were mixing with the vaccinated, numbers would increase further, putting pressure on the health system.

He was scathing about "selfish" people who refused to get vaccinated, saying "It's not fair to health workers".

NSW recorded 86,562 tests on Monday and the double-dose vaccination rate of those 16 and older is 93.2 per cent, while 94.8 per cent of people have had one jab.

Some 81.4 per cent of children aged 12-15 have had one vaccine dose, and 77.7 per cent both.

On Wednesday the lockout of unvaccinated people will end as a swathe of restrictions are lifted.

Density limits will be scrapped at venues and masks will no longer be mandatory in shops. However, they will be required on public transport and planes as well as for indoors front-of-house unvaccinated hospitality staff.

Check-ins will only be required in high-risk settings such as hospitals, pubs, clubs and gyms, and singing and dancing will be permitted indoors and outdoors for everyone.


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4 min read
Published 14 December 2021 at 6:49pm
Source: AAP, SBS