NSW has recorded another 18,278 COVID cases and two deaths as the state’s huge outbreak continues to spread.
There are now 1,066 people hospitalised with the virus, 83 of whom are in intensive care.
Testing numbers to 8pm on the first day of 2022 were down to 90,019, a drop from 119,278 on New Year’s Eve.
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The daily case number is also lower than Saturday’s 22,577 infections when four deaths were recorded.
The high case numbers come as Premier Dominic Perrottet continues to focus on hospitalisation and intensive care numbers rather than the daily case total.
At the peak of the Delta outbreak, on September 21, there were 1266 people hospitalised with infections, and 244 in intensive care.
Despite comprising about six per cent of the population, unvaccinated people make up the majority of those in intensive care, Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
To ensure hospital systems can cope, asymptomatic health workers who are in isolation due to being a close contact of a positive case will be permitted to leave isolation in “exceptional circumstances”, NSW Health announced on Friday night.
The exemption to the public health order, signed off by Mr Hazzard, means close contacts can leave self-isolation to attend work if they have been identified by their employer as critical and unable to work from home.
The exemption allows them to travel from home to work, and if they develop symptoms they have to get a PCR test and cannot return to work until they test negative.
Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant warned earlier in the week there were probably more cases than health authorities knew about as testing systems remain back-logged by a huge demand for tests in the lead-up to Christmas.
Some 93.6 per cent of adult NSW residents have now had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, while the 12-to-15-year-old age bracket has moved to 78.2 per cent having received two doses.
© AAP 2022