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A man being swabbed for a Covid-19 test
Photograph: Medicare

Has NSW's Omicron outbreak reached its peak? Both state and federal health experts think so

It is too early to say for sure, but the evidence and modelling suggest the state could already be on the tail end of the current outbreak

Maxim Boon
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Maxim Boon
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With a backlog of positive RAT tests now being lodged with Service NSW, the state's daily case numbers have made for sobering reading over the past few days. However, despite the skyrocketing numbers, NSW could already be past the worst of the Omicron outbreak. As with previous waves of Covid-19, infection rates are expected to reach a peak and then recede. It is too early to say for certain – with lockdown settings all but abandoned it is harder to track the influence of the ‘personal responsibility’ effect of people limiting their movements by choice – but both Paul Kelly, the nation’s chief medical expert, and modelling on hospitalisation rates in NSW suggest that the state might have reached its Omicron peak. That could mean a decline in daily case numbers within a few weeks.

At a press briefing held by the prime minister on January 13, Kelly said that the state was close to peaking, if it hadn’t already, noting that NSW would be the first state in the country to reach its peak but that elsewhere in the country should be peaking by the beginning of February at the latest. In the NSW press briefing on January 14, modelling was revealed suggesting that hospitalisations should plateau at some point during the week commencing January 17, which further supports the idea that the state has reached or is close to reaching the outbreak’s peak. 

NSW’s record-breaking numbers are not only due to the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant. Not only are positive RAT results backdated to January 1 currently being counted in daily case totals, but there are also likely to be a significant number of duplicated results from people who tested positive on multiple RATs before taking a PCR test to confirm their diagnosis.

Booster uptake continues to climb in the state, with 40 per cent of eligible adults in NSW now jabbed with a third dose of a vaccine. NSW’s chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant also offered some new information about people in NSW who have recently recovered from Covid-19. For four weeks after the mandatory seven-day isolation period, people who have recovered from the virus do not need to isolate even if they are a close contact of a positive case. Close contacts are now exclusively defined as household contacts only, Chant clarified, stating that the term ‘exposure site’ in relation to public venues like restaurants or shops would no longer be used.

Have you or someone you know recently tested positive? Here are your FAQs on what to do next, answered by a registered Covid nurse.

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