'Not a good sign': NSW to brace for ANOTHER Covid-19 wave

NSW has been warned to brace for a new wave of Covid-19 infections predicted to peak in February.

The state recorded 485 new infections on Sunday. It follows a staggering 560 cases on Saturday — the highest daily tally since early October before the lockdown was lifted.

This weekend, epidemiologist Adrian Esterman, a professor with the University of South Australia, said the growth of Covid-19 cases in NSW is beginning to escalate out of control.

Healthcare workers administer COVID-19 tests at a drive through test centre in Liverpool, Sydney, Thursday, December 2, 2021. Source: AAP
Some 90,804 Covid-19 tests were recorded in NSW's most-recent reporting period. Source: AAP

"For NSW it [the Reff] has been about one for weeks … so up until the last few days everything has been totally stable," he told the ABC, referencing the effective reproduction number (Reff) — a way of measuring an infectious disease's capacity to spread.

"But now we're starting to see NSW cases going up and more importantly we're seeing the effective reproduction going up and that's not a good sign," he said.

The Reff currently stands at 1.38 — the highest it’s been since the end of August and a huge jump from 1.25 just days ago, he said.

A photo of epidemiologist from the University of South Australia, Professor Adrian Esterman. Source: ABC News
Epidemiologist from the University of South Australia, Professor Adrian Esterman, warned case numbers will double double every 14 days at the current rate. Source: ABC News

"So what we're seeing now is typically that initial rise in cases which we saw at the start of the previous wave, so it's definitely going to be a wave coming up," Professor Esterman continued.

Professor Esterman expects case numbers to continue to double at the current rate every 14 days but he said the peak would likely not happen until February.

Complacency concerns as Omicron spreads

The expert's warning comes after NSW Health officials confirmed a person infected with the highly-mutated Omicron variant has been admitted to hospital.

It's the first hospitalisation in Australia to be connected to the new variant of concern.

Genomic testing is underway into further potential Omicron cases with the state tally up to 55 as of Sunday.

Members of the public wear face masks as they go about their daily lives in Liverpool, Sydney, Thursday, December 2, 2021. Source: AAP
Genomic testing into additional Omicron cases continues with the state tally up to 55 as of Sunday. Source: AAP

Professor Esterman urged caution regarding the new strain, explaining it had not yet been proven to be less impactful than Delta.

"[Omicron] potentially will take over from Delta and when you're getting something even more transmissible it means that even though we have very high levels of vaccinations it won't be sufficient," he told the ABC.

"And that means we do have to retain our public health measures, not relax them."

Christmas cheer blamed for rising cases

Meanwhile, health authorities are worried festive season celebrations are behind the spike in cases and could become potential super-spreader events.

"Clearly we have seen a number of outbreaks recently across Sydney," NSW Health's Dr John Hall said on Saturday.

"We reiterate just how important it is for people to not attend social functions if they have any symptoms, even if mild."

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