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New case numbers, millions granted access to free RAT tests

The state recorded 15,091 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm last night, down from the 20,324 reported on Sunday morning.

The tally included 6336 positive RAT results from the past seven days.

Hospitalisations rose from 2712 to 2816, with 196 in intensive care, up from 189 yesterday.

A further 24 deaths have also been reported.

There were another 17 lives lost and 998 people are hospitalised across the state, a slight drop on the previous 24 hours.

Aussies eligible for rapid tests – but can they access them?

The latest daily case updates comes as more than six million Australians are eligible to access free rapid tests from today.

But experts have warned supply shortages could prompt a “Hunger Games” between chemists.

Concession card holders will now be able to get their hands on 10 free kits over the next three months — with a limit of one pack per purchase.

Covid-19 rapid antigen test kits.
More than six million Australians will be able to access free rapid tests today. (Bloomberg)

However, there are fears smaller pharmacies will not be able to meet demand.

In papers supplied to Sydney Morning Herald, the Pharmacy Guild described the current situation between chemists as the “Hunger Games”, referencing a series of sci-fi books where teenagers battle to the death in a televised competition.
Posters for COVID-19 rapid antigen test, outside a pharmacy in Sydney.
There are fears smaller pharmacies will not be able to meet demand. (Flavio Brancaleone)

Of more than 5000 pharmacies not associated with the Chemist Warehouse chain, around 700 of them said they don’t have enough supply for today’s rollout.

“It’s just gone all Hunger Games on us,” Pharmacy Guild president Trent Twomey said.

“The reality is, the bigger the buying power, the more power you have in a supply chain and the better positioned you are to acquire stock.”

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet yesterday announced the state’s back-to-school plan. (9News)

“We are currently distributing (RATs) to over 3000 schools across NSW,” Mr Perrottet said yesterday.

“As well, all our early childhood education and childhood centres will be providing rapid antigen tests for teachers in those early childhood and childcare settings, and in both primary and secondary school, two rapid antigen tests per student per week.”

Students and staff are being asked to test themselves before they come back to school on Monday, February 1.

Twice weekly testing will be carried out in the first four weeks of term.

Dominic Perrottet told today that unlike states such as South Australia and Queensland, students would return to the classroom as usual on January 28.
NSW school students will be tested twice a week once they return to the classrooms. (The Sydney Morning Herald)

There are hopes Australia has reached the peak of its Omicron wave as most states have recorded both a decline in cases and the number of hospital admissions.

Victoria yesterday recorded 14 new deaths and 13,091 new cases, 1002 of whom are in hospital.

This marked an admission decrease of 27 from the day prior.

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