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Man in 20s one of six COVID-19 deaths in NSW, state records 34,994 new cases as hospitalisations rise

The NSW Premier has warned elective surgery may be suspended after the state’s health system buckles under the pressure of surging COVID-19 cases.

Dominic Perrottet told 2GB a suspension of elective surgery “may happen” after the state recorded 34,994 new infections in the past 24 hours.

“Yes it may happen. Just like it happened earlier this year and last year,” he said.

“There’s obviously significant pressure on the system.”

NSW doctors said an elective surgery suspension will mean people are no longer being treated in a recommended time frame.

“Elective surgery is not elective,” NSW AMA Dr Michael Bonning said.

“It is required for people to live full and active and healthy lives.”

“It’s surgery people need.”

Health system under pressure

Paramedics have warned the government “for months” that hospitals would face a crisis as COVID-19 cases grow.

“Some of the worst cases we’ve seen for priority one cases are upwards of four, five and six hours for ambulances to arrive,” Australian Paramedics Association Brett Simpson said.

“These cases could be people having heart attacks, strokes and difficulties breathing.”

An ambulance arrives at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney
NSW residents are urged to only call Triple Zero if it’s an emergency. (Getty)

NSW Health has also urged residents to “not placing any unnecessary burden on the health system.”

“You should not call Triple Zero (000) or attend a hospital emergency department if you want to get a COVID-19 PCR test.”

Six deaths including man in his 20s

A man in his 20s is one of six people who died with COVID-19 in NSW overnight.

The man, who was from the ACT, had been double vaccinated and had no underlying health conditions before passing away at St Vincent’s Hospital, according to NSW Health.

The five other people who died were in their 60s, 80s and 90s.

The 34,994 new cases mark a slight drop from the record 35,054 infections recorded yesterday, however hospitalisations have increased again, with 1609 people being treated with the virus and 131 in intensive care.

That’s 118 more people in hospital, and 12 more in the ICU than yesterday.

Overnight, 22,197 new infections were recorded – an increase from the 17,636 yesterday.

Six more people in Victoria have died with the virus.

The Sydney suburbs with the highest active COVID-19 case rate have been revealed, with a number of beachside Sydney postcodes posting a high active case rate.

Edmonson Park in Sydney’s south-west has the highest active case rate in the state with 77 cases per 1000 residents.

Popular beach side postcodes, including Bondi, Bondi Junction, Coogee and Clovelly follow closely behind, while Schofields in the city’s north-west is also one of the worst-affected areas with 53 active cases per 1000 residents.

A number of beachside suburbs boast a high active case rate.
A number of beachside suburbs boast a high active case rate. (Today)

Changes to testing requirements

In response to the surge in cases and amid mounting demand for PCR and rapid antigen tests, a trend being mirrored in other states, National Cabinet has brought in sweeping changes to Australia’s testing requirements.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday announced rapid antigen tests would start being used at COVID-19 testing sites to speed up results, officially scrapping the requirement of a positive PCR test.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a press conference at Parliament House. (Alex Ellinghausen)

Mr Morrison said concessional free tests would also be available at pharmacies to those who have a Commonwealth seniors health card, a healthcare card, a low-income card, a pension concession card, DVA Gold card or a DVA white card.

Mr Morrison said rapid antigen tests would not be free for all citizens.

“Universal free access to tests was not agreed by any of the states and territories today, or the Commonwealth. I make that very clear,” he said.

Buying limits reintroduced

Distribution centres are experiencing higher than usual absenteeism due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in the Greater Sydney community.
The rapidly escalating COVID crisis is having an impact on our supermarket shelves. (9News)

Woolworths says it is not put any restrictions just yet.

“We’ve seen the demand for (RATs) in the last seven days just explode,” Coles chief operations officer Matthew Swindells said.

“We’ve got a good pipeline of stock coming through,” the Coles boss said, “but the demand is extremely high.”

Posters for COVID-19 rapid antigen test, outside a pharmacy in Sydney.
More rapid antigen tests are expected to arrive in Australia by mid-January. (Flavio Brancaleone)

A Woolworths spokesperson said tens of thousands of RATs were being sent from distribution centres to its stores each day.

“But they’re selling through very quickly with the recent surge in demand,” the spokesperson said.

How one shepherd got sheep and goats to join vaccine efforts

More rapid antigen tests are expected to arrive in Australia by mid-January.

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