NSW has 63,018 COVID-19 cases, 29 deaths

TIffanie Turnbull and Jack Gramenz |

NSW has reported another 63,018 COVID-19 cases and a record 29 deaths, as Australia’s medical chief says the current wave of infections may have already peaked in the state.

The spike in daily reporting numbers comes as the state works through a backlog of results from rapid at-home tests, which were only able to be reported from Wednesday.

Some 25,080 cases came from the rapid antigen tests (RATs), while 37,938 were diagnosed from PCR, laboratory processed tests.

NSW Health cautioned some of those cases were the same positive cases reported numerous times from multiple rapid antigen tests and PCR tests.

The 29 deaths reported on Friday make it the deadliest day of the pandemic for NSW.

The number of patients in hospital is also steadily climbing, now at 2525 with 184 in intensive care.

The changes to testing guidelines comes as health authorities hope the Omicron variant wave is peaking in NSW.

Before the change, NSW Health had warned it was not getting an accurate picture of the virus’ presence and spread in the community from PCR tests alone.

The government has since threatened $1000 fines it concedes will be difficult to enforce if people don’t report positive results from a RAT from January 19, a week after the reporting capabilities first went live.

While authorities still don’t have a really accurate picture of the growth of infections across the state, Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly on Thursday said he expected daily case numbers will begin to fall soon.

“NSW is a bit ahead of the other states and that’s not surprising, they started earlier, but they are close to peaking if not already,” .

“The other states are a little bit further behind that but I think end of January, early February is probably where we will see a change.”

Prof Kelly said other places around the world have seen huge surges in cases from the Omicron variant, before reaching their peak and starting to come down in a short period of time.

While PCR queues have receded from the long lines seen at the end of 2021, attention has turned to an often fruitless search for rapid antigen tests.

A large queue formed near a convenience store in the inner-Sydney suburb of Redfern on Thursday afternoon as word spread it had tests for sale, days after selling out the entirety of an earlier shipment in less than half an hour.

Store owner Hazem Sedda told Nine News he couldn’t believe how popular the tests had proven “but everyone wants them”.