NSW daily Covid update: 20,794 new cases today and four deaths

The NSW chief health officer has issued a warning to people with Covid-19 as she revealed when patients are most infectious.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant has warned that people with Covid-19 are most infectious before they develop symptoms, as hospitalisations continue to rise in the state.

NSW recorded 20,794 new Covid-19 cases and four deaths on Monday, with 1204 people in hospital with the virus and 95 patients in intensive care.

“You’re most infectious before you’ve got symptoms,” Dr Chant said.

“If you are a household contact you are required to self-isolate but we are also urging you to get a PCR test and then a (rapid antigen test) on day six and if both of those are negative you can go about your business.”

In her daily video update on Monday, Dr Chant reminded people with Covid-19 to alert their own close contacts, saying NSW Health was no longer interviewing every case as they used to.

Hospitalisations and ICU presentations had increased on Monday from Sunday’s tally by 138 and 12 patients respectively.

Daily infections have risen again from the 18,278 cases reported on Sunday after a record peak of 22,577 on Saturday.

There were 96,765 PCR tests processed in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, up from 90,019 tests on Saturday but down from 119,278 on Friday – the day before the record case numbers were reported.

Of the over 16 population, 93.6 are double-dose vaccinated and 95 per cent have had at least one shot.

Dr Chant acknowledged the state’s hospitals were under pressure but said they were well equipped to handle the increase in cases.

“While we are very well placed in the global context to manage the Covid-19 burden it is important that we all play our part in not placing unnecessary burden on the health system,” she said on Monday.

Dr Chant said the hospital system was there for people who needed it and urged people not to delay seeking help if they needed it.

“But there are some presentations that potentially are avoidable,” she said.

“So, for instance, if you’re going to an emergency department to try to get a PCR test for Covid-19 and you’re not unwell, that potentially compromises the care for those who need it.”

People are reportedly still struggling to get tested at PCR clinics despite most state governments announcing sweeping changes to testing regimes.

Scott Morrison announced changes on Thursday after a snap national cabinet meeting, with the new rules designed to ease the pressure on overwhelmed pathology systems and reduce the number of people out of the workforce.

The Prime Minister said people were no longer supposed to get the “gold standard” PCR tests unless they had Covid-19 symptoms or fell under the new, more narrow definition of close contacts.

Speaking to Sunrise on Monday, Mr Morrison again ruled out making rapid antigen tests free, despite the shift in government policy to make them the testing method of choice.

“We already make them free to everyone who is required to have one (and) they are also tax deductible,” Mr Morrison said.

“We are now at this stage of the pandemic we just cannot make everything free because when someone tells you they will make something free, someone will always pay for it, and it is going to be you.”

The Morrison government has come under pressure to follow the lead of other countries including the UK and make RATs free, amid widespread reports of price gouging with some Australian retailers selling five packs for up to $170.

Australia’s healthcare system is feeling the strain of increasing Covid-19 hospitalisations, despite early evidence suggesting the emerging Omicron strain causes a milder illness than the Delta variant.

Victorian health authorities have said Omicron has overtaken Delta to become the dominant variant in their state.

Victoria reported 8577 new cases of Covid-19 and three deaths on Monday, breaking its record for the highest number of infections reported in a single day.

Cases increased from the 7172 infections recorded on Sunday, while hospitalisations rose from 472 to 491.

There are 46 active cases in intensive care in the state, with 24 patients on ventilators – two more than yesterday.

In Queensland, a man in his late 30s is believed to have died from Covid-19 as the state’s daily case tally rose to a new record of 4249.

Authorities on Monday said the man from the Gold Coast – who is believed to have been vaccinated – died suddenly in his home on Sunday night.

His death will be investigated by the coroner.

If confirmed, it will bring Queensland’s pandemic death toll from seven people to eight people. The last death was in April 2021.

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