New NSW restrictions, triple-vax mandate

Luke Costin |

A third vaccination shot will soon be mandatory for frontline workers in NSW, as the state reduces elective surgery and bans singing in pubs to curb the Omicron surge.

Teachers, health workers and those in frontline disability roles will be among the groups required to get a booster shot to be considered “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19, Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Friday.

No deadline has been set, with the exact rules being worked out by Health Minister Brad Hazzard, the premier said.

The state reported another 38,625 COVID-19 cases on Friday, taking the three-day total above 100,000.

New modelling shows the health system will come under increased pressure in the next few weeks, though Mr Perrottet described the predictions as “encouraging”.

“What is encouraging from this model is that even on a worst-case scenario, we have the capacity in our health system right now,” he said.

Still, he suspended non-urgent elective surgery until mid-February and has called on the private hospital system to help with capacity constraints. That mimics the response to outbreaks during the Alpha and Delta waves.

The premier also imposed fresh restrictions – halting singing or dancing in pubs or clubs until January 27, except for weddings, performers or classes.

Some high-risk major events may also be contacted by health authorities and forced to implement restrictions to be deemed COVID-safe.

“As well … we’ll continue to encourage people to minimise mingling with possible,” Mr Perrottet said.

“If you’re in a hospitality venue, if you can sit down while drinking, please do so.”

The first of 50 million rapid antigen tests purchased by the state government are expected to arrive in the state next week.

How and to whom they’ll be distributed will be announced in coming days, Mr Perrottet said.

Earlier, the head of the Australian Medical Association said the restrictions might slightly slow the spread but couldn’t turn the curve around.

“Everyone is either immune or they’ve caught the virus,” Omar Khorshid told the Ten Network.

“It’s going to take some weeks to reach this peak, and therefore, we just have to brace ourselves.”

Active cases now exceed 200,000, meaning about one in 40 NSW residents currently has COVID-19.

Friday’s case total came from 112,000 tests – a 34 per cent positive rate.

The deaths of another 11 people were reported on Friday, taking the two-week fatality figure to 51.

The six men and five women were aged all 50 or older and included people from northern NSW, Sydney, the Port Stephens area and Lake Macquarie.

While the unvaccinated made up only about five per cent of people over the age of 16, they remain over-represented among the 134 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

NSW Health’s Jeremy McAnulty urged people to get vaccinated.

“We continue to see many unvaccinated in ICU, including young people,” Dr McAnulty said on Friday.

Hospitalisations rose 129 to 1738 on Friday.

More than 4000 cases were reported in each of Sydney’s central, west, southeast, southwest and northern local health districts.