Grim Covid prediction for January in NSW: 'LUNACY'

An Australian economist has called the NSW government's "living with Covid" strategy "fatuous nonsense"; predicting a quarter of hospital beds will be taken by Coronavirus patients in a matter of a few weeks.

"By mid-Jan, NSW hospitalisations likely to approach 5000 on current policy settings," John Quiggin, a professor at the University of Queensland tweeted on December 26.

"That's 25 per cent of all beds in the system," he continued. "Add a 25 per cent cut due to staff isolating, and half the beds normally available will be gone."

Picture of an emergency sign at a hospital.
About 25 per cent of hospital beds are predicted to be taken by Covid patients by mid January. Source: AAP

The alarming prediction comes a couple of weeks after NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard warned cases could skyrocket to 25,000 new infections a day by the end of January.

“Given the reproductive rate of 1.5, or thereabouts, the modelling from the Epidemiology Public Health Unit at the University of New South Wales is telling us is that by the end of January we could be looking at 25,000 cases of the virus every single day,” Mr Hazzard said on December 15.

“On my maths, that takes us to about 175,000 cases in a week."

According to Mr Quiggin, if cases were to continue to increase it would be too much for hospitals if close contacts had to isolate, predicting they could lose up to 25 per cent capacity.

"Government has foreshadowed dropping isolation requirements, which would increase capacity, but also ensure lots more infection of vulnerable patients," he told Yahoo News Australia.

"Assuming that [Brad] Hazzard’s 25,000 cases a day estimate is correct, that two per cent are hospitalised and an average stay of 10 days, that’s 5000 people in hospital on any given day.

"NSW has 20,700 hospital beds, so almost 25 per cent taken up with Covid."

'Let it rip' strategies resulted in 'disastrous' outcomes: Quiggin

Mr Quiggin slammed NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet's decision to scale back Covid restrictions as the Omicron variant continues to run rampant, saying the "lunacy" of opening up could have NSW needing another lockdown.

"With luck, other states can get [by] with masks, vaccination mandates and work from home," he said. "But if NSW doesn't move, borders may have to be closed again."

"Every country that has tried 'let er rip' has had disastrous outcomes, and all (except some Republican controlled states in US) have reversed the course," he said, adding Denmark made the decision to drop all restrictions in September.

"They are now back in nearly full lockdown," he said. "If Perrottet continues to resist vax passports, encourage socialising etc, it will be impossible for other states to bring case numbers down.

"Pressure to reimpose border controls (or not lift them in case of WA) will increase."

Cars in line waiting to get a Covid-19 test.
Case numbers remain high in NSW with over 6000 cases recorded again on Tuesday. Source: Getty

Instead, Mr Quiggin told Yahoo News he thinks the government should rapidly roll out Covid boosters, return to "effective" contact tracing and reinstate vaccination passports.

"In practice, lockdown won’t happen until outcome is catastrophic, and end will be unpredictable," he said.

NSW Covid cases increase over festive season

NSW reported 6,062 infections on Tuesday, down 172 from Monday.

It's the fourth consecutive day the state has recorded over 6,000 cases, with daily case numbers increasing by over 5,000 cases per day in just two weeks.

Last week, the NSW Government announced the return of indoor mask wearing, the return of QR check-in codes in hospital and retail venues, and mailing free rapid antigen tests to NSW residents in the new year.

The changes were made in an attempt to suppress a spike in coronavirus cases, with tens of thousands of people in NSW in isolation as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 continues to spread.

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