NSW reports 25 deaths, fewer in hospital

Luke Costin and Jack Gramenz |

NSW COVID-19 hospitalisations have dropped for the first time in five weeks, with the state also reporting 25 deaths and 30,825 fresh infections.

The state’s hospitals are now treating 2781 people, down 82 on Wednesday’s figures.

The last time the daily hospitalisations figure fell was December 13, two days out from the state’s lifting of most restrictions.

ICU patients fell five to 212 while the triple-dose vaccination rate rose to 29 per cent.

Four in five primary-school-aged children in NSW are still to receive their first dose of the vaccine.

It comes as Labor calls for schools to be turned into mass vaccination hubs and NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant urges parents to get booster shots to protect their kids.

Dr Chant says people who have already had COVID-19 can get a booster four to six weeks after they were infected.

Case numbers may increase as children return to school, Dr Chant said.

Meanwhile, NSW and Victoria will unveiled their united schooling plan at national cabinet on Thursday.

Retired teachers and final-year university students have been asked to provide a buffer to an anticipated shortfall of regular staff furloughed due to COVID-19 isolation rules.

“It will look a bit different to how schooling has been in normal times, but ultimately I think with the plan we put in and will be taking to national cabinet today, I have confidence we’ll be able to have schooling commence as seamlessly as possible,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet told the ABC on Thursday.

The premier said no final decision had been made on the extent of surveillance testing in schools, purported to be twice-weekly for all 1.3 million students.

But “at least in the short-term” surveillance testing would provide some role, with the state increasing its order of rapid antigen tests to 150 million this week.

“We see those tests playing a role in all our frontline work and giving comfort to people as we move through this difficult period of time,” he said.

“That’s for schools, health workers, providing support, social housing as well.”

As hospital numbers fall, newly published figures show the average COVID-19 patient taken to hospital is spending almost five days before discharge, up from 3.6 days per admission two weeks ago.

The snapshot – taken on January 17 – also shows patients are spread across 95 hospitals, up nearly 50 per cent from a fortnight before.

The number of health workers in isolation fell slightly on last week’s figure, down 360 to 5296.

Unvaccinated people remain disproportionately more likely to end up seriously ill, making up 27 per cent of hospital patients and 44 per cent of ICU admissions on January 16 when that snapshot was taken.