NSW could set a new record for COVID-19 hospitalisations in the coming days, as numbers near the figure reached during the height of the Delta outbreak in September.
There were 1204 people in the state’s hospitals with COVID-19 on Monday, just 62 cases shy of the record set on September 21 when NSW was in the grips of Delta.
Monday’s figure marked a rise by 165 on the previous day’s figure.
Amid dramatically escalating case numbers attributed to the Omicron variant, Premier Dominic Perrottet has been urging residents to turn their attention from the caseload to hospital numbers.
Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant on Monday said authorities would be looking at “the whole picture”, including hospitalisation figures, intensive care admissions, the positivity rate and case numbers.
The increasing hospitalisation numbers may mask the true picture of the severity of the virus, with a small NSW Health study finding that some patients counted in the COVID-19 numbers were actually admitted to hospital for completely different reasons, like childbirth.
NSW Health says that with the spread of COVID-19 in the community, it’s unsurprising that patients admitted for other injuries and illnesses will be found to have COVID-19 too.
While ICU numbers are rising — 25 at the latest count ∞ they are well short of the peak of 244 in September.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard says 74 per cent of people admitted to hospital intensive care units since December 16 were suffering from the more serious Delta variant of COVID-19.
Of those, 62 per cent were unvaccinated or had only had one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
“The fact that we still have three-quarters of people in ICU who are very sick with Delta shows us that Delta is still around,” Mr Hazzard told The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday.
Mr Hazzard expects more people hospitalised with the highly contagious Omicron variant to show up in health data in the coming weeks.
While Omicron is said to be “milder” than Delta, it can still make people very sick.
NSW has now recorded more than 5000 daily cases for 12 consecutive days, peaking at 22,577 on Saturday.
Case numbers during Delta peaked at 1599 in early September.
The state reported 20,794 cases from 96,765 tests on Monday, which means 21.5 per cent of people tested had the virus.
Dr Chant says the case numbers and the positivity rate will change from day to day as tests from labs come through and are processed.
While the outbreak is putting strain on the health system, she reassured NSW residents on Monday that it was there to help anybody who needs it.
But she urged people not to show up to emergency departments unnecessarily, such as people who are not unwell seeking a PCR COVID-19 test.