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NSW has confirmed another 19 COVID-19 deaths and 8950 cases as the state’s health minister and top doctor prepare for a grilling over the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Brad Hazzard and Dr Kerry Chant will join other senior NSW Health staff, healthcare unions and academics in appearing before the public accountability committee on Friday.

It is the first hearing since September, with the state coming out of lockdown and weathering its Omicron wave since.

The reopening of NSW and recent challenges facing the aged care and health sectors will be under scrutiny.

More than one million people had been infected and nearly 1200 had died since the most recent hearing, committee chair David Shoebridge said.

“This has placed extreme pressure on our health care and aged care sectors, along with many other industries,” he said.

“We welcome the opportunity to ask important questions relating to the minister’s handling of the pandemic over the last four months.”

Impacts on regional health and aged care and the health advice the government received before easing restrictions in December will also be a focus of the hearing.

Australian Medical Association NSW president Danielle McMullen, NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association assistant general secretary Shaye Candish, and Health Services Union state secretary Gerard Hayes will appear in the morning, followed by academics and health sector executives.

Ms Chant is scheduled to appear along with Mr Hazzard in the afternoon.

As the number of people in hospital continues to fall, the NSW government has announced that hospital visitation rules will change.

There are 1716 people in NSW hospitals with the virus – down 79 on the day before. They include 108 in intensive care, a drop of 13.

The change in visitor policy comes after backlash from people who missed out on saying goodbye to dying relatives.

The gravely ill and dying will be allowed visitors, along with those giving birth, without their visitors having to apply for exemptions as was previously the case.

The number of daily visitors to the state’s hospitals will remain limited and hospitals will be able to block visits when necessary.

Just over half of those eligible for a booster shot in the state have received one, while 44.6 per cent of primary school aged children having received their first dose.

-AAP

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