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Authorities have warned New South Wales could see up to 25,000 COVID-19 cases a day by the end of January as household contact rules are changed ahead of Christmas.

Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said the “simple maths” of Omicron’s 1.5 reproductive rate could cause a surge in infections next year after the state recorded 1360 new infections overnight, up from 840 yesterday.

“By the end of January, we could be looking at 20,000 cases of omicron every day,” Mr Hazzard said.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 15: A health worker is seen at the COVID-19 testing clinic at Bondi Beach on December 15, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. COVID-19 restrictions have eased further across NSW, including rules for unvaccinated people. From today, masks are only required on public transport and in airports, or for indoors front-of-house hospitality staff who are not fully vaccinated. QR code check-ins are only required for high risk venues including hospitals, aged and disability care facil
COVID-19 cases are doubling every two to three days in NSW. (Getty)

“We may not get to 25,000 cases every day – but we could.”

The modelling was based on outbreaks and analysis of Omicron cases in South Africa and the UK.

Mr Hazzard said NSW needed to be “on alert”, as Omicron cases were “doubling every two to three days”.

Vaccines were not stopping the transmission of Omicron, Mr Hazzard added.

“But it would appear the severity of illness is not as bad as it was with previous variants of the coronavirus,” he said.

Mr Hazzard said the "simple maths" of Omicron's 1.5 reproductive rate could see NSW hit 25,000 cases every day by the end of January.
Mr Hazzard called on people to be cautious while Christmas shopping and at Christmas parties. (9News)

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant has urged NSW residents to limit their social activities.

Dr Chant said people should still wear masks in public, even though it was no longer mandated.

NSW residents have been urged to get their booster vaccines amid the rise of Omicron infections.

“We do know boosters are critical at getting the immune response,” Dr Chant said.

It comes as Premier Dominic Perrottet announced household contacts in NSW will no longer need to isolate for seven days, they will just need to receive a negative PCR test.

People queue for Covid testing at Honeysuckle in Newcastle, after there was a confirmed case of Covid-19 present last Wednesday at the Argyle House nightclub. Pic taken on December 13, 2021. Photo: Darren Pateman / SMH
Testing rates in NSW have risen as COVID-19 infections continue to surge. (SMH)

NSW COVID-19 cases surge in past 24 hours

COVID-19 cases have surged in NSW as the state recorded 1,360 infections in the past 24 hours.

One person with the illness has died, but intensive care numbers did not see a significant spike, lifting from 20 to 24 patients.

The total number of the Omicron strain of the virus is now 110.

NSW Health said it remains concerned about the escalation in COVID-19 transmission in the Newcastle area, and it is likely the majority of cases in the region are the Omicron variant.

The NSW woman who died with the virus today had received three doses of a vaccine.

She was aged in her 90s and had underlying health conditions, NSW Health said.

The woman died at the Gillawarna Village Aged Care Facility in Georges Hall, where she acquired her infection.

This is the third death linked to an outbreak at the facility.

Concerns over easing of restrictions

The new jump in NSW came as the head of the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association sounded a note of concern over the end of the state’s mask mandate.

From today, masks are only required on public transport, in airports and on planes, and for front-of-house hospitality staff who are unvaccinated.

People are still “strongly encouraged” to wear masks when they cannot socially distance.

But NSW AMA president Dr Danielle McMullen said the rising case numbers were a worrying sign.

“We’ve been worried in the weeks leading up to this anyway, and encouraging the government to reconsider the mask mandate in particular,” Dr McMullen told Today.

“We know that indoor masks are a really simple, cheap way of reducing the spread of COVID-19.”

Health experts are calling for mask mandates to remain despite most restrictions easing across NSW from today. (Brendon Thorne/Getty)

She said people were likely to be nervous about getting infected ahead of Christmas, particularly with parties and gatherings on this week.

“I think the best thing we can all do, to be able to have as much of a normal life as possible, is to keep those masks on indoors, get tested if you even have the slightest sniffle, go and get a proper PCR test,” Dr McMullen said.

“And if you’re going to a big Christmas gathering or you’re going to go visit nan or visit other elderly relatives, maybe think about doing one of the home tests before you go out, even if you are feeling fine, because we are seeing some spread from people who just don’t know they’re carrying COVID.”

Despite recording 804 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, just 21 people were in intensive care – compared to more than 200 when NSW last topped 800 daily cases.

Dr McMullen said doctors were “cautiously confident” that Omicron appeared to be a milder variant.

“Our health systems are coping, but even if it’s only a mild illness, we still can’t afford to have the whole community infected all at once,” she said.

Newcastle outbreak came from Sydney

A COVID-19 outbreak that has spread to hundreds of cases in Newcastle in the Hunter Valley has been linked to an alleged Sydney breacher, Health Minister Brad Hazzard has said.

Mr Hazzard told yesterday 2GB that a COVID-positive person from a boat party on Sydney Harbour, which sparked a cluster last week, ignored health advice to self-isolate and attended the Argyle House in Newcastle.

“I believe that person was asked to self-isolate for seven days and that person apparently on the face of it may not have done that and went to a nightclub in Newcastle,” Mr Hazzard said.

A potential Omicron outbreak could have begun in Newcastle, following positive cases linked to the Argyle House nightclub.
An Omicron outbreak has been linked to the Argyle House nightclub. (Darren Pateman)

Mr Hazzard also confirmed there has been a significant jump in people testing positive for the virus after attending the nightclub on December 8.

“What we do know is that out of the 650 to 680 people, there are now more than 200 patrons positive for COVID-19,” he said.

Testing is underway to see if these cases are the Omicron variant.

Anyone who went to The Argyle House nightclub from 9pm on Wednesday, December 8 to 3am on December 9 has been deemed a close contact and must immediately get tested, and isolate for seven days.

Emotions flow as families reunited after Queensland border reopens

They must then minimise mixing with other people and avoid high-risk settings for the next seven days.

It’s understood a passenger with COVID-19 travelled on a flight to Brisbane, before catching a connecting one to Townsville.

Source: 9News

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