New NSW restrictions, triple-vax mandate

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PCR tests won't be necessary to confirm COVID-19, a third vaccination shot will be mandated for some workers and singing in pubs will be banned as NSW prepares for the Omicron wave to peak in late January.

New modelling released on Friday predicts between 3100 and 6000 hospital beds will be needed in the peak, expected in the third or last week of January.

"What is encouraging from this model is that even on a worst-case scenario, we have the capacity in our health system right now," Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

About eight to 10 per cent of hospital cases are expected to require intensive care.

As NSW reported 38,625 cases on Friday, the government tweaked restrictions and overhauled testing procedures to cope with case surge.

A positive rapid antigen test for a symptomatic person or close contact will count as an official COVID-19 case, once Service NSW develops a method for people to upload results. That's expected mid-next week.

"Please do not go out and about if you have symptoms. Please stay at home, get access to a RAT, or if you can't ... have a PCR test," Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said.

NSW will also join Western Australia in requiring teachers, health workers and those in frontline disability roles to get a booster shot to be considered "fully vaccinated" against COVID-19.

No deadline has been set, with the rules still being determined. WA gives workers one month from the first date they're eligible for a third jab.

Mr Perrottet has also suspended non-urgent elective surgery until mid-February and called on the private hospital system to help with capacity constraints.

That mimics the response to outbreaks during the Alpha and Delta waves.

Singing or dancing in pubs or clubs will be halted until January 27, except for weddings, performers or classes.

Some high-risk major events may also be contacted by health authorities and forced to implement restrictions to be deemed COVID-safe.

"As well ... we'll continue to encourage people to minimise mingling if possible," Mr Perrottet said.

"If you're in a hospitality venue, if you can sit down while drinking, please do so."

Despite the restrictions, NSW shows no sign of delaying the school year, due to begin for most students on February 1.

From Monday, children aged five to 11 will get their chance to be vaccinated.

Dr Chant said she was "depressed" to see first-dose rates for those aged 12 to 15 have stalled about the 81 per cent mark.

"I'd love to see that number come up a bit higher before school," she said.

Next week will also bring the first shipment of 50 million state-government-purchased rapid antigen tests. Access and eligibility will be announced in the coming days.

Active cases now exceed 230,000, meaning at least one in 35 NSW residents currently has COVID-19.

Friday's case total came from 112,000 tests - a 34 per cent positive rate.

The deaths of another 11 people were reported on Friday, taking the two-week fatality figure to 51.

The six men and five women were aged all 50 or older and included people from northern NSW, Sydney, the Port Stephens area and Lake Macquarie.

While the unvaccinated made up only about five per cent of people over the age of 16, they remain over-represented among the 134 COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

Hospitalisations rose by 129 to 1738 on Friday.

The outbreak is widespread, with more than 4000 cases reported in each of Sydney's central, west, southeast, southwest and northern local health districts.

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