New cases top 11,000 nationwide amid stoush over ‘tourism testing’ – as it happened

New cases top 11,000 nationwide amid stoush over ‘tourism testing’ – as it happened

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2.47am EST


The day that was, Tuesday 28 December

That’s all for today. Here’s what we learned:

Daily cases in Australia exceeded 10,000 for the second consecutive day, with a total of 11,264 new Covid cases across the country – the highest figure since the beginning of the pandemic.
NSW recorded 6,062 cases and one death, as massive demand for PCR testing led to wait times of up to eight hours. The premier Dominic Perrottet and the health minister Brad Hazzard both blamed “tourism testing” for delays.
Victoria recorded 2,738 cases and four deaths, with 361 people in hospital.
Queensland recorded 1,158 new cases, with health minister Yvette D’Ath announcing the state would scrap its day five testing requirement for interstate arrivals.
SA recorded 995 Covid cases, the ACT recorded 252, Tasmania 43, and the NT 16 cases. WA reported no locally acquired cases, with three new cases in quarantine.
In another testing error, the Sydney pathology lab SydPath initially told 486 people their Covid test had a negative result, when they had actually tested positive.
Australia retained the Ashes after a dismal third test performance from England. Brad Hazzard also announced that January’s “sacred” Ashes test at the Sydney Cricket Ground would go ahead.

Thanks for joining us!

2.16am EST


Caitlin Cassidy

Exhausted New South Wales health workers are being pressured to return from Christmas leave as hospitals and testing facilities are crippled by surging Covid numbers and staff furloughs.

About 2,000 health workers have been furloughed across the state after being listed as close contacts, prompting NSW Health to slash the isolation time for health workers from two weeks to seven days provided they return a negative PCR test.

1.58am EST


There’s some relief forecast for those on the south-west of coast of WA, where temperatures have soared in recent days.

Bureau of Meteorology, Western Australia
Relief is on the way! The heat will ease over the next couple of days over the southwest coast of #WA, including #Perth, as a couple of weak fronts brush past and cooler sea breezes return. Remaining hot/very hot inland. For all your forecasts this holiday season, check #MetEye.

December 28, 2021

Over the weekend, Perth recorded its hottest ever Christmas day of 42.8C, breaking a record that has stood since 1968.

Over Christmas and Boxing Day, 24 new temperature records were broken in WA.

This isn’t great news (see: climate crisis), particularly in a La Niña summer – though it’s important to note that the climate pattern doesn’t tend to impact the south-west of WA much.

Bureau of Meteorology, Western Australia
24 new temperature #records broken in the last 24 hours 😲 a mix of hottest day, hottest #December day and hottest #Christmas day. There may be more to come with another warm night forecast tonight. A (welcome!) cool change arriving from Wednesday.

December 26, 2021

1.47am EST


Daniel Hurst

The federal opposition says the Morrison government “should have better prepared for the inevitable spike in cases when they relaxed the rules and opened up again”.

Labor frontbencher Matt Thistlethwaite told reporters at a press conference in Sydney today thousands of Australians were “waiting in unreasonably long queues for PCR tests” and it was hard to access rapid antigen tests. He accused the federal government of a lack of planning:

Australians are now facing the prospect of very long delays and waits for test results, of businesses shutting down and of workers missing shifts and valuable income, because of this government’s incompetence.

The Morrison government has lost control of Covid again.

You would think that they would have learned their lesson after the bungling of the vaccine rollout, but it appears that they haven’t, and the Australian people deserve better.

1.28am EST


Ben Butler

Small businesses have been forced to close during the crucial summer holiday period because of the failure of state and federal governments to bring in free Covid rapid antigen tests, the sector’s peak body says.

Alexi Boyd, the chief executive of the Council of Small Businesses of Australia, has welcomed an announcement by NSW premier Dominic Perrottet that the state had ordered 20m rapid antigen tests, expected to be available by the end of January.

But Boyd said many hospitality and tourism businesses had already been forced to slam shut their doors due to a lack of staff, amid a dramatic increase in Covid case numbers.

Read the full story here:

at 1.28am EST

1.12am EST


On a different kind of test, here’s a laugh to bring us into Tuesday evening. (You can read more reactions to England’s Ashes loss here.)

Spirit of Carlton
If anyone in Melbourne is looking for super quick test results just go to the MCG.

December 28, 2021

12.49am EST


My colleagues Cait Kelly and Caitlin Cassidy have been reporting today on the issues around PCR testing delays.

Queues of up to eight hours in NSW have led to calls to standardise interstate testing requirements and make rapid antigen tests the norm.

The lines are frustrating for people queuing, but the delays are also affecting public health modelling. Here’s Prof Adrian Esterman from the University of SA:

All of our modelling assumes testing and contact tracing are working well, and they’re not.

So our modelling isn’t accurate and we are getting far more cases than we expected.

Read the full story here:

12.29am EST


NSW premier Dominic Perrottet has said “tourism tests” are partly to blame for long wait times for PCR tests in the state. Speaking to Chris O’Keefe on 2GB, he said the proportion of tests being taken for interstate travel was “probably nudging 30%”.

The premier continued:

Our pathology teams both within NSW government and the private companies who work with the government are operating at full capacity.

The anecdotal feedback that we’re getting is that there are many people lining up for tests who do not need them. You do not need to get a test if you are not feeling unwell or not advised to do so by NSW Health.

But the high test positivity rate in NSW seems to suggest a different story. More people who get tested in the state are coming back positive than ever before. Yesterday, 6.5% of the Covid tests reported were positive – the highest rate since the pandemic began.

A higher rate, according to public health experts, means that the official case numbers are likely capturing only a proportion of the true case figures.

12.06am EST


Australian Covid cases exceed 10,000 for second straight day

Here’s a summary of all of the Covid case figures across Australia today. It’s the second consecutive day that the country has recorded more than 10,000 cases in total.

ACT: 252 cases
NSW: 6,062 cases and one death
NT: 16 cases

Queensland: 1,158 cases
SA: 995 cases
Tasmania: 43 cases
Victoria: 2,738 cases and four deaths
WA: no locally acquired cases (three in quarantine)

That brings the total to 11,264 cases.

at 2.14am EST

11.54pm EST


South Australia records 995 new Covid-19 cases

11.50pm EST


NSW testing sites remain under strain

Peter Hannam

Jonathan Hannam takes a photo while waiting in line for a drive-through Covid test. Photograph: Jonathan Hannam

Testing sites around NSW remain under strain, with reports of people sleeping overnight in testing lines around Coffs Harbour to beat the rush. Some people were told there was no point hanging around the north coast station even before the testing site even opened, so large were the numbers.

Locals are saying Sydneysiders driving north are checking in to get tests before they enter Queensland, and it might not be long before those from outside local government areas get refused.

In Sydney, three local sites in the Inner West that had been offering afternoon tests were all closed during a recent reccy.

Across town, my brother Jonathan and sister-in-law Torun spent almost four frustrating hours queuing to get tested in Rose Bay. They were told to expect results within 72 hours, leaving their New Year’s Eve plans in limbo, as is likely to be the case for thousands of people across Australia.

One of their sons, Lukas, gave up waiting and skipped off to St Vincent’s after a tip-off on the @Bondi_Lines Instagram page about shorter wait times.

Perhaps because of doubts about St Vincent’s pathology unit (SydPath) following the incorrect reporting of the Covid results of more than 1,000 patients, others have been wary of visiting the testing site. Lukas got his test within about an hour but has been told he may have to wait more than 72 hours for a result – maybe some extra checking being done there.

Because of a glitch Lukas wasn’t formally told by NSW Health that he was a close contact with someone who tested positive. He says that means he is not eligible for compensation of $750 a week.

“It’s just not good enough,” he said.

at 11.55pm EST

11.19pm EST


If, like me, you felt like 2021 was in fact a million years long, this gallery is a great visual reminder of the year that was:

at 11.23pm EST

10.56pm EST


Slight qualification to premier Mark McGowan’s tweet (below), WA Health has just put out a release that there are no new local cases, but there are three new cases, all in quarantine and not linked to the current outbreak.

The department is still testing some close and casual contacts from the French backpacker who was in the community while infectious.

10.41pm EST


Northern Territory confirms 16 new cases

The Northern Territory has recorded 16 new Covid cases. Five of them are household contacts from the Tennant Creek outbreak.

at 10.47pm EST

10.29pm EST


Zero new cases for Western Australia:

Mark McGowan
WA Health has confirmed that, as of 10am this morning, WA has recorded zero new local cases of COVID-19.

The total number of locally acquired cases related to the recent outbreak remains at ten – which includes the first case, Case 1,133.

December 28, 2021

9.57pm EST


Calla Wahlquist

Aboriginal children in Western Australia have been kept in detention after being granted bail because child protection services did not know where to house them, the Aboriginal Legal Service has said. Read the whole story here:

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