Record daily COVID-19 deaths for NSW

Gina Rushton and Tiffanie Turnbull |

NSW has recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic, with a young child among 18 new deaths as the number of people hospitalised with COVID-19 continues to climb.

A then-highest of 16 deaths was reported on Sunday, but that number was surpassed 24 hours later when another 18 fatalities were recorded on Monday.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the child was aged under five, had “significant underlying health conditions” and died at their south-western Sydney home. 

Six women and eleven men, including an unvaccinated man in his 30s, also died with the virus. 

Dr Chant urged people who are unvaccinated, pregnant or have underlying medical conditions not to delay getting a COVID diagnosis and asked everyone to monitor for breathlessness. 

“We don’t expect young people to get breathless or dizzy and that’s a sign you really need to escalate your care,” she said. 

The number of people hospitalised with the virus in NSW has increased by 103, to 2030.

Of those, 158 are in intensive care – eight more than the day before. 

Half of all people in NSW’s intensive care units with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

There were also 20,293 new infections reported from 84,333 conventional PCR lab tests. 

There is no way to report rapid test results in NSW yet, with the system due to come online mid-week, at which point case numbers are expected to surge again.

Mr Perrottet on Sunday confirmed a further 50 million at-home rapid test kits have been purchased by the state in addition to the 50 million already held in reserve. 

The newly-purchased rapid tests would be a core part in getting kids back to school at the end of the month, he said.

While just over 78 per cent of children aged 12 to 15 in NSW have been fully vaccinated, primary school-aged children – those between five and 11 – only became eligible for their first dose on Monday.

With an eight week gap recommended between jabs, very few will be fully vaccinated when classrooms open their doors amid the nation’s biggest outbreak.

That has prompted the Queensland government to delay the return to classrooms by two weeks, to February 7.

Mr Perrottet was asked repeatedly on Monday about whether NSW would follow suit but he said he was determined children would be back in the classroom day one of term one. 

Meanwhile isolation requirements for more close contacts have been scrapped, in an effort to stem the impact of the outbreak on supply chains.

Shoppers have been faced with empty shelves as the crisis hits supermarkets.

Food logistics and manufacturing staff furloughed as close contacts are now allowed to leave self-isolation to attend work if they have no symptoms.

They also have to wear a mask and comply with risk-management strategies including daily rapid antigen tests, provided by their employers.

Now the government is under pressure to extend the rules to the hospitality sector, with Business NSW and the Restaurants and Catering Industry Association among those calling for the change.

Mr Perrottet acknowledged the sector is struggling at the moment, but said the focus needed to be on “essential workers”. 

“Naturally, when exemptions get made, your door gets knocked down for further exemptions to get to be made,” he said.

“It is all about the balancing of risk and having society obviously functioning well.”