Australia Covid update: NSW records first Omicron death as cases remain high across nation

New South Wales has recorded its first death linked to the Omicron variant amid a surge of Covid cases that has led to the number of people hospitalised across the state doubling in the past week.

On Monday it was revealed that a further 995 people were mistakenly sent negative test results by Sydney’s St Vincent’s hospital before their true result had been determined.

On Christmas Day, 400 people were told they had tested negative when they were actually positive.

The hospital’s pathology department said it had now contacted the original 400 people, while the 995 would get their accurate test results by Monday night.

It was a “specific human error”, the department said.

“Once again, we are sincerely sorry for this error and acknowledge the significant impact it has had on those involved.”

On Monday, authorities reported that three more people had died in NSW as 6,324 new Covid cases were recorded across the state.

That was a slight decrease from the record 6,394 cases reported on Sunday, but the number of people in hospital has doubled in a week to 520, 55 of them in intensive care.

The Omicron victim was a man in his 80s who acquired his infection at the Uniting Lilian Wells aged care facility in North Parramatta. He was fully vaccinated but had underlying health conditions.

Another man in his 80s and a woman in her 90s also died.

Three people also died in Victoria, where there were 1,999 new infections.

While the number of people in intensive care in Victoria rose by three to 80, the number of people on ventilators fell from 43 to 38. There were 368 people in hospital, down from 374 on Sunday and below the seven-day average of 376.

Victoria’s testing woes continued, with people turned away before sites opened again on Monday, as demand outstripped capacity at multiple locations.

Authorities have encouraged those needing tests to research less well-known sites to avoid spending long hours in queues.

The Victorian government is reportedly considering allowing close contacts to use rapid antigen tests to clear themselves, freeing up the PCR testing sites for those with symptoms.

Covid cases chart

In Queensland 784 new Covid cases were detected on Monday, compared with 714 on Sunday, but the premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said the health system was coping.

Quarantine and testing policies are being reviewed and rapid antigen tests may be introduced for some people within 48 hours to take pressure off testing facilities.

Palaszczuk warned Queenslanders case numbers would continue to climb.

“I don’t want people to be alarmed by that, the real issue here is what is the impact it is having on individuals in hospitals?” she said. “We are not seeing any massive impacts on our hospitals, which is really good news.”

Just four “significantly unwell” people were in hospital receiving care for virus symptoms. “We are monitoring this very closely,” Palaszczuk said.

About 75% of cases in Queensland are the Omicron variant and 25% are Delta, with the majority of infections among people aged 35 and younger.

The Australian Capital Territory recorded 189 new cases, a new daily high.

One person is in hospital but no one is in intensive care or requiring ventilation, according to the figures reported on Monday.

Western Australia recorded just one new Covid infection, but the premier, Mark McGowan, warned the state was “not out of the woods yet” after a French backpacker was in the community while infectious.

McGowan said the health department had identified 608 close contacts, and 1,089 casual contacts, and was in the process of tracking and testing them all.

Current restrictions and mask mandates will remain in place until 4 January, and a new proof of vaccination app will be released soon.

In the Northern Territory, the 12 new cases of Covid included two cases linked to the outbreak in the Tennant Creek area. Fifteen people are in hospital, with one in ICU.

Tasmania has recorded 35 new cases, a slight drop on the 44 reported on Boxing Day.

The new daily infections announced on Monday took the number of active cases in the state to 194, with 116 patients managing their care at home, according to the health department.

One case was in hospital after being admitted for another medical condition.

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