NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has urged residents to hit up Boxing Day sales and enjoy New Year’s Eve celebrations as authorities declare ‘we are all going to get Omicron’.
The premier and Health Minister Brad Hazzard fronted a press conference on Sunday to discuss the surging Covid outbreak in NSW, with cases hitting 6394 on Boxing Day – a rise of 106 cases in 24 hours.
Despite the growing infection count, authorities have urged residents to continue business as usual, saying it is inevitable Australians will eventually catch the virus.
However, the leaders are pleading with residents to only get a PCR test for Covid if symptomatic and to otherwise opt for a home rapid antigen test.
Mr Hazzard said the state’s pathology system is struggling as hundreds of thousands of residents have flocked to facilities for swabs before travelling interstate.
‘Bottom line here is that we’re all going to get Omicron,’ Mr Hazzard told reporters at Sydney’s Olympic Park on Sunday.
NSW Health authorities have urged residents to hit up Boxing Day Sales and New Year’s Eve festivities, declaring ‘ we are all going to get Omicron’
‘The challenge for us in the state is to make sure that our health system can cope with that on coming virus… [And] the best way to face it is when we have full vaccination including our booster.’
Mr Perrottet said he was aware there was concern among the community about catching Covid over summer, but reiterated there was ‘no reason’ people should refrain from their holiday plans intrastate.
He said the state’s health system was poised to handle rising case numbers and urged NSW residents to continue supporting businesses to boost the economy.
‘Let’s get out and about, enjoy the best that our state has to offer over this holiday season and we’re going to get through it,’ he said.
There are 458 people in hospital across NSW – up from 388 yesterday as the number of patients in ICU remains steady at 52.
The latest case count comes after 109,545 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday – down by 39,716 from the day before.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s recorded 1608 from 72,519 tests – a drop from 2,108 on Saturday- bringing the number of active cases in the state to 17,392.
Sadly, Victoria also recorded two deaths on Sunday, with 374 people in hospital – below the seven-day average of 381.
There are 77 patients in intensive care, five more than Saturday and 43 who are ventilated, up one.
NSW recorded 6394 new Covid cases on Boxing Day – a rise of 106 cases in 24 hours. PIctured: Women enjoy Christmas in Byron Bay on Saturday
It comes as health experts warn New Year’s Eve revellers to avoid kissing or hugging strangers as the clock strikes midnight in a bid to avoid a rapid spike in Omicron cases.
Epidemiologist Nancy Baxter said people should also reduce the number of guests at house parties, or stay at one venue rather than ‘party hopping’.
‘It’s a bit of a creepy tradition (the midnight kiss), but I’d say only kiss people that you would normally be kissing,’ she said.
‘It’s better to not go at all, or to watch the fireworks from the car, but if you do go, make a wise decision and wear masks outdoors because you won’t be socially distanced.’
As the super-contagious Omicron strain fuels outbreaks across the state, hospitalisations have remained steady – compared to the virus’s more severe predecessor, Delta.
NSW health officials have said most patients in hospital are unvaccinated.
Some 93.5 per cent NSW residents aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated, while 78.3 per cent of kids aged 12-15 have had at least two doses.
Meanwhile, many testing facilities across Melbourne were forced to close early on Boxing Day after reaching capacity as Victorians flocked to centres.
The Albert Park drive-through clinic was declared closed 15 minutes before it opened at 7am due to a lengthy queue already snaking up to the gate.
Other sites across the city were shut shortly after opening, including in South Melbourne, Glenroy, and at Monash, LaTrobe Bundoora and Victoria Universities.
Masks will be a common site again at the first day of the Boxing Day Test on Sunday, after authorities reintroduced mandates on Friday.
People aged eight and older must now wear masks at all major events with more than 30,000 patrons. They can be removed while seated outdoors but must be worn while moving around in venues.
Masks are also required for entering hospitality and entertainment venues and offices.
On Saturday, Australians gathered for another Covid-19 Christmas with restrictions reintroduced and flights cancelled at the last minute for travellers.
Compulsory mask-wearing is now in place across almost every state and territory as leaders try to limit the spread of the highly-infectious Omicron variant over Christmas (pictured, Queen Victoria Market on Christmas Eve)
Compulsory mask-wearing is now in place across almost every state and territory as leaders try to limit the spread of the highly-infectious Omicron variant over Christmas.
Dozens of Jetstar and Qantas domestic flights out of Sydney were cancelled on Christmas Eve as frontline staff deemed close contacts are having to test and isolate as the virus spreads through the city.
Almost 30,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus in NSW in the past nine days.
There were 5,612 infections and one death reported in NSW on Friday. Meanwhile, Victoria recorded 2095 cases and eight deaths.
High-risk, large public events in Western Australia have been scrapped and dancing banned except at weddings after a backpacker tested positive on Thursday.
Five additional cases were recorded in WA on Friday, one close contact to the original case and four casual contacts who were exposed.
A hostel in Perth’s south has been locked down to stop the spread.
Queensland reported 589 new daily infections, while South Australia had 688, Tasmania 27, the ACT 102 and the Northern Territory 10.
As infections continue to rise the federal government announced the wait for booster shots will be reduced twice in January.
Health Minister Greg Hunt on Friday said from January 4, boosters will be brought forward to four months after the second dose, down from five months currently, to help combat Omicron.
Then from January 31, people can get boosters after three months.
About 7.5 million Australians will be eligible for their booster shot come January 4. This will jump to 16 million at the end of the month once the time frame is dropped to three months.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese used their Christmas messages to thank Australians for standing together and supporting each other during the pandemic.
‘This pandemic continues to buffet us … (but) Christmas is a time of hope and we are an optimistic people,’ Mr Morrison said.
Mr Albanese said Australians deserved to have a happy Christmas after a challenging two years.
‘With our borders opening up again, we’re getting back together. Off the Zoom and actually back in the room with family, friends and loved ones,’ he said.