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People in Sydney CBD during Covid-19 pandemic
Photograph: Kate Trifo/Unsplash

‘The spread is slowing’: NSW chief health officer says state is now past the Omicron peak

However, at-home isolating and wearing masks indoors is likely ‘for the rest of the year’

Maxim Boon
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Maxim Boon
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The Omicron surge, which has sent infection rates in NSW rocketing from one of the lowest in the world to one of the highest, has passed its peak, according to NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant. The seven-day average in NSW has dropped from 47,000 in late December to 28,000 over the past week, and the downward trend looks set to continue. Positivity rates from PCR tests have also dropped from 38.6 per cent in early January to 20.4 per cent. Hospitalisations and deaths have consistently lagged behind daily cases by about two weeks, but a decline in the number of people requiring hospital care is anticipated by early February.

Chant said that cases in NSW were stabilising, although a "slight uptick" is expected once schools return to in-class teaching from January 28. However, Chant also warned that certain health precautions, such as wearing masks in indoor settings and isolating for one week if symptomatic, are likely to remain in place “at least until the end of the year”. The NSW government had attempted to lift almost all health precautions on December 15, 2021, just as the Omicron surge was growing in the state. Nine days later on Christmas Eve, mask mandates and density limits in hospitality venues were reintroduced in an attempt to address the dramatic increase in cases caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

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