Mandatory rapid test reporting for NSW

Hannah Ryan |

NSW residents who fail to report positive rapid antigen test results will face a $1000 fine as the state makes a “messy” transition to its COVID-19 testing regime.

It comes as the state breaks a new record for the daily reporting of deaths. Some 21 deaths were announced on Wednesday, including seven historical fatalities. 

Residents aged 16 and older can now log any positive at-home tests they’ve done this year via the ServiceNSW app or website, in a process Premier Dominic Perrottet says is “seamless”. 

From Wednesday, uploading the result within 24 hours is mandatory.

Police enforcement is set to commence next week, though Mr Perrottet concedes it will be difficult. 

The premier said on Wednesday the shift was not just about counting COVID-19 cases but understanding who has underlying conditions and may need more care.

Those who test positive will be asked for details about their medical background and sorted into high and low risk cases, with the former to receive extra contact from NSW Health.

People who test positive on RATs will have to isolate for seven days while they recover, unless they have no symptoms and no known exposure, in which case they must do another test within 24 hours. 

NSW Health has repeatedly warned that the official case numbers were likely inaccurate, as so far they’ve counted those who’ve returned a positive PCR test. 

The daily case numbers – which reached 34,759 on Wednesday – will include PCR and RAT statistics from later in the week.

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant on Wednesday apologised for the “messy” transition to the testing approach, which she said had happened far quicker than authorities wanted.

She urged anyone who did not have access to RATs – which remain scarce – to take a PCR, especially if they have underlying conditions.

Mr Perrottet says PCR testing will still play a role, particularly as NSW struggles with RAT supply.

The 21 deaths reported on Wednesday were of 17 men and four women, including one person in their 30s. Eight were unvaccinated, 12 were vaccinated, and one person had received one dose.

The number includes seven deaths from between September and December 2021, and included in Wednesday’s count following coronial investigations.

The number of people hospitalised with the virus continues to rise, with 2242 people now admitted across NSW. 

Some 175 patients are in intensive care.

Meanwhile, Mr Perrottet confirmed the NSW government is considering a voucher system for rapid antigen tests, along the lines of the Dine & Discover program.

Schools are a high priority to receive RATs once the government procures sufficient numbers, he said. 

The premier on Wednesday reiterated his commitment to having schools open on the first day of term, rejecting a Queensland-style postponement.

Around nine in 10 cases in NSW are now the highly transmissible Omicron variant, Dr Chant said.

While nine in 10 ICU cases were Delta at the start of December, Omicron now makes up two thirds of ICU cases. 

Proportionally, the Omicron variant has a lower hospitalisation and ICU rate than previous variants. 

More than 50 per cent of ICU patients are unvaccinated.

Around one in five NSW adults have now received a booster shot, NSW Health’s Susan Pearce said on Wednesday.