Kerry Chant has urged close contacts of Covid-19 cases to get tested immediately because they’re more infectious before symptoms start showing.
NSW recorded 18,278 new cases on Sunday morning, with 1,066 in hospital and 83 in intensive care.
Two vaccinated men – one aged in his 90s and the other in his 80s – both died in hospital.
Hours after the figures were announced, the NSW chief health officer urged anyone who lives with a positive Covid case to isolate and get a PCR test as soon as possible.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant (pictured) warns that Covid-19 is more infectious before the patient starts showing symptoms
NSW recorded 18,278 new Covid cases on Sunday. Pictured: Australians shopping on Boxing Day
‘You’re most infectious before you’ve got symptoms,’ Dr Chant said on Sunday.
‘If you are a household contact you are required to self-isolate but we are also urging you to get a PCR test and then a [rapid antigen test] on day six and if both of those are negative you can go about your business.
‘But we do ask that you don’t visit high risk settings – healthcare, aged care, disability or correctional facilities for the next six days.’
An additional three people were admitted to ICU in NSW on overnight on Sunday – up from 79 on Saturday.
Sunday was the first time there were more than 1,000 Covid patients in NSW hospitals since October 2. The most ever recorded in was 1,268 on September 21.
On Saturday, NSW saw a record-breaking 22,577 new infections and four deaths – but Dr Chant stressed the inflated figure was a result of backlogs in testing centres over the Christmas period.
Pictured: People queue in their cars for a Covid-19 PCR test at the Rose Bay testing centre in Sydney’s east
Despite the high case numbers, Premier Dominic Perrottet has maintained that hospitalisation rates are more important than daily case numbers.
‘We will continue adapting our response as needed and if the facts and our evidence base change, we will adapt again,’ he said.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on Friday that the majority of people in ICU were unvaccinated.
But some medical experts predict 100,000 cases in NSW by the end of January and are concerned about coronavirus patients in hospital almost doubling since Christmas.
The number of new Covid cases in NSW hit 18,278 on Sunday. Pictured: A group of friends celebrating the new year in Sydney on Friday evening
Experts fear the number of new Covid cases in NSW could reach 100,000 by the end of January. Pictured: A health care worker at St Vincent’s Drive-through Clinic at Bondi Beach
Professor Adrian Esterman, the chair of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of South Australia, holds grave fears for the state’s health system.
Mr Esterman said the number of new cases has been doubling every four days.
‘In four days time that is about 40,000 cases, and four days after that 80,000 cases, so you can see how easily it can reach 100,000 cases,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The professor said the government should reintroduce more Covid restrictions to stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed before the outbreak peaked.
‘The health system is creaking at the seams,’ he said.
‘Just suppose five per cent have it bad enough to go to hospital – that’s 1000 patients going into the system every day.
‘How are they going to cope with that? The answer is they can’t. Something has to change.’
Pictured: People lining up at the pre-departure testing clinic at Sydney International airport
Sydneysiders have been queuing at testing centres for hours amid the latest Omicron outbreak. Pictured: People waiting for Covid tests at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid, who is among the most cautious of medicos and regularly calls for stricter rules but is not an infectious disease expert, claimed lockdowns could be necessary.
He said even though Covid patients with the Omicron variant were not as sick as those who had the deadlier Delta variant, ‘they’re still taking up beds’.
‘Doctors are not seeing massive numbers of Covid cases yet in Victoria, but they’re still extremely busy [and] they’re watching what’s happening in NSW and they know that it is coming,’ he told The Age.
Mr Khorshid also said he expects restrictions on elective surgery after Christmas to make more space for Covid patients.
Dr Khorshid said state premiers are resigned to the idea that everyone will get Covid, and suggested they focus on encouraging people to get their booster shots.