The ‘most wonderful time of the year’ is looking bleak in NSW, where rampaging COVID infections have surged past previous levels to set a chilling new record for daily cases.
A total of 6288 new cases have been reported on Saturday – a rise of 676 on the previous day’s number and confirmation of epidemiologists’ fears that the end of the COVID plague is nowhere in sight.
The only good news in the latest figures is that no new deaths were reported even as infections continue to skyrocket.
With thousands in isolation after contracting COVID-19 and scores more unable to see loved ones thanks to cancelled flights and closed borders, those still able to celebrate are unlikely to enjoy anything resembling a pre-COVID Christmas.
Testing numbers dropped significantly, with more than 149,000 people being swabbed, about 15,000 fewer than the day before.
The number of people in hospital with the virus nudged slightly higher, to 388, an increase of six.
But one fewer person is in intensive care, taking the total to 52.
Most of those hospitalised are unvaccinated, NSW Health says.
Vax target within reach
But the good news is that the state is now all but guaranteed to reach it’s goal of 95 per cent vaccination coverage, with the share of people with at least one dose hitting that target on Saturday.
The spiralling outbreak is swamping contact tracers, overwhelming testing sites and affecting flight schedules as authorities reintroduce mask rules.
Dozens of Jetstar and Qantas domestic flights out of Sydney were cancelled on Christmas Eve as frontline staff deemed close contacts were forced to get tested and isolate as the virus spreads through the city.
The situation has also prompted the government to reintroduce some restrictions that were only wound back on December 15.
More than 30,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus in NSW in the days since.
Masks are again required in indoor settings, with hospitality venues to return to the one person per two-square metre rule and QR codes to be compulsory again from Monday.
While no restrictions will impact Christmas gatherings at homes on Saturday, those still able to celebrate are encouraged to take COVID-19 precautions when and where possible.
Revellers should undertake rapid antigen tests before gathering, should prioritise ventilation and should ask elderly visitors to sit outside on the verandah, NSW Health says.
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