NSW reports 11,201 new COVID-19 cases as Queensland scraps PCR tests for travel

NSW has recorded a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases as demand for testing pushes centres beyond capacity.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottett speaks to the media during a press conference on Dec 20.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet speaks to the media during a press conference on Dec 20. Source: AAP

New coronavirus cases have nearly doubled in New South Wales to a record 11,201, while multiple other states have also reported pandemic-high levels of infections.

Victoria on Wednesday reported 3,767 new COVID-19 cases, Queensland 1,589, South Australia 1,471, the ACT 138 and Tasmania 55.

There have also been eight more fatalities across the country, including three in NSW and five in Victoria.

The new caseloads in NSW and Victoria represent significant increases from the 6,062 and 2,738 infections reported on Tuesday.

There are 625 people in hospital in NSW, with 61 in intensive care - one more than the previous day.

Hospitalisations have also jumped in Victoria from 361 to 397, bringing the seven-day average to 379.

In Queensland, there are eight people in hospital and zero patients in ICU, in the ACT four people are in hospital, while in South Australia, 36 patients are in hospital and five are in intensive care.

Tasmania now has 300 active infections, the majority of which, 158, are being managed at home. There are 63 people in community management clinics and one person is in hospital for an unrelated medical condition.

One of Tasmania's 55 new cases includes an aged care worker. The staff member worked at St Ann's aged care facility on Christmas Day and was tested for COVID-19 on Monday. The Hobart home has been put into lockdown.

The Northern Territory has reported 19 infections as the lockout in Tennant Creek will lift as planned at 5pm on Wednesday. There are 20 people in hospital in the territory but no patients in intensive care.

PCR tests for Qld travel scrapped

Also on Wednesday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced travellers from interstate hotspots will from 1 January be able to show a negative rapid antigen test result to satisfy border requirements.

Interstate arrivals currently have to show a negative PCR test result taken within the past 72 hours.

Queensland on Tuesday announced it would scrap requirements for interstate arrivals to get a PCR test on day five of arrival into the state.

The state's Chief Health Officer, Dr John Gerrard, said there was no evidence the tests were keeping Queenslanders safe.

"We have been following the results of these tests for the past two weeks, since the borders opened on the 13th of December, to see how many people are actually testing positive from them," he said.

Ms Palaszczuk had been under pressure to scrap PCR tests for interstate arrivals, especially from the NSW government, as testing sites are pushed beyond capacity.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet welcomed the move, and said people in his state should only seek a PCR test if they have been advised to by NSW Health, or are feeling unwell and have symptoms of COVID-19.

"If you are not unwell or you have not been advised by NSW Health to receive a PCR test, you should not be lining up for one," he told reporters on Wednesday.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard encouraged people to get their booster shots as soon as they are eligible to do so and said he is still hearing cases of people being vaccine-hesitant.

"Get off the social media," Mr Hazzard said. "Switch off your social media and switch on reality and go and get a booster."

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall also welcomed the Queensland government’s move. 

He added that South Australia would no longer provide pre-departure PCR tests for any state or territory.

Mr Marshall also said it would soon be mandatory for frontline healthcare workers and those working with vulnerable people to have a booster vaccine, and elective surgeries would be limited to category 1 and urgent category 2.

Meanwhile, the Victorian government has ordered 34 million rapid antigen tests it intends to hand out for free by the end of January.

"Rapid antigen testing is the way that Victorians can have confidence as they go about living with COVID and making sure that they do their bit to keep the pressure off our hard working hospitals," Health Minister Martin Foley said on Wednesday.

"We would much prefer to have a national approach to what is a national, indeed an international, supply issue. But failing that, as per usual, the states have had to step up over the course of this pandemic and fill the gap left."

How the tests will be distributed is still being worked out. The state is already handing out free rapid tests in some circumstances, including to students and staff exposed at schools.

Two more WA cases

Western Australia has detected two new COVID-19 cases linked to an infected French backpacker who travelled from Queensland.

One was a close contact of the unvaccinated 25-year-old index case, who was also at a busy Perth Mess Hall event with many other travellers 10 days ago.

The other infection is another backpacker who is likely to have had contact with infected backpackers, Premier Mark McGowan told reporters on Wednesday.

Contact tracers had identified 704 close contacts with 50 still to be tested, he said.

"Of these, 44 were at the Mess Hall event [and] 16 people are unlikely to be contacted due to false or misleading information they provided through the contact register or ticket sales," Mr McGowan said.

"Our numbers continue to grow each and every day and over this period we will get further cases.

"Police are working very hard to find these people."

It comes as WA's first dose vaccination rate climbs to 91.7 per cent for people over 12 and 83.6 per cent double dose.

With AAP.

6 min read
Published 29 December 2021 at 8:40am
By Eden Gillespie, Evan Young
Source: SBS News