NSW health authorities have issued a major Covid warning after the state broke its own record for new daily infections.
NSW health officials have warned people could still develop Covid-19 seven days after being exposed to the virus as cases surge to a new high.
The state broke the record for most daily infections across the country on Tuesday with 3057 new cases and two deaths, beating its previous record on Sunday of 2566.
The new cases come after 136,972 tests on Monday, with 284 people now in hospital and 39 of those in intensive care, 11 of which are on ventilation.
NSW Health has warned a quarter of people exposed to Covid-19 could develop the infection after seven days.
“For the next seven days, close contacts should exercise caution and not enter a high-risk setting, should avoid large indoor gatherings, use a rapid antigen test if coming into contact with vulnerable people,” NSW Health said in a statement.
The department is also reminding people to practice Covid-safe behaviours by wearing a mask in high-risk settings.
“Get tested and stay home if you have the mildest of symptoms. Do not visit family, friends or go to social events if you are unwell. Wash and sanitise your hands regularly,” it said.
“If you do not have symptoms, consider using a rapid antigen test before going out.”
There were two deaths reported on Tuesday, including a man in his 80s from Sydney’s southern suburbs who died at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He was fully vaccinated and had underlying health conditions.
A woman in her 70s from the Central West died at the Gosling Creek Aged Care facility, where she acquired her infection. She was not vaccinated and had underlying health conditions.
Demand at Covid testing sites have put high pressure on clinics as thousands of people line up to get tested ahead of the festive period.
Sites have been swamped as residents prepare to travel interstate with Sydneysiders facing an anxious wait for their results before Christmas Day on Saturday.
People are spending hours trying to find clinics with the shortest queues and waiting in line trying to get a Covid swab.
Some results are taking up to 72 hours to be returned, putting holiday plans in jeopardy as holidaymakers scramble to travel interstate.
Images show massive lines at testing facilities since case numbers exploded in NSW, with most clinics having a wait of at least one hour from when they open.
There are also reports of rapid antigen tests being sold out across the state at pharmacies and retail stores.
But Premier Dominic Perrottet has called for calm, saying the ICU presentation is a “very important” indicator vaccines work against the Omicron variant.
“We have 33 people who are in ICU and 26 of those 33 are unvaccinated,” he told reporters on Monday morning.
“The evidence is clear. The numbers do not lie. Getting vaccinated protects you and your family and that has been a key success for our state in being able to open up.”
NSW officials are keeping a close eye on ICU admissions, saying the figure will determine whether more restrictions are required.
Victoria recorded 1245 new infections and six more deaths on Tuesday.
State leaders are urging the federal government to speed up the booster rollout amid the growing threat, with three jabs possibly becoming the new target for “fully vaccinated”.
The NSW and Victorian Health Ministers have written to Greg Hunt to urge him to bring forward the booster jab to four months rather than five months after their second vaccination.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to hold an “informal” national cabinet on Wednesday to discuss the new variant.
The meeting is expected to include discussions on face masks, working conditions and booster vaccinations.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is also debating whether three COVID-19 doses are needed for a person to be deemed fully vaccinated.
When questioned about growing calls to mandate masks and tighten Covid-19 restrictions, Mr Perrottet said the state needed to learn to live alongside the virus.
“We are taking a balanced and proportionate response that is completely focused on keeping people safe, while at the same time opening up our economy and ensuring that people are able to work and provide for their families,” he said.
“There will always be new variants of this virus. The pandemic is not going away. We need to learn to live alongside it.”
Originally published as NSW records 3057 new cases of Covid-19 and two deaths sparking major health warning