The NSW health chief has begged Sydneysiders to stay home and avoid parties on New Year’s Eve if they have any Covid symptoms after the state recorded 21,151 new cases of COVID-19.

‘If you have the most minimal of symptoms, I am asking you to stay home, isolate and get a test,’ Dr Kerry Chant said. 

‘Even though it may be that one-off event where you’ve been looking forward to seeing family and friends. 

‘We all have a part to play to reduce the impact of those case numbers.’ 

Dr Chant’s plea comes as the state reeled from Covid case numbers almost doubling again in just 48 hours as the Omicron strain rips through the state.

One in seven of all tests in the state over the past 24 hours came back positive as the disease spreads through the community like wildfire. 

Now health officials fear New Year’s Eve parties could accelerate the spread even faster – and begged partygoers to either stay at home or party safe 

‘We are the envy of the world,’ said NSW health minister Brad Hazzard. 

‘Today we’ll have people out enjoying themselves for what is going to be a brilliant Sydney and New South Wales day – absolutely brilliant. 

‘But we also need to remember the basic messages that Dr Chant and her team have conveyed all the way through with this virus. 

‘And that is just enjoy the day but also be cautious that 1.5 metre social distancing still works and wearing the masks when you can’t maintain that social distancing

‘Particularly if you’re indoors, and you’re not eating or drinking – it still helps and it still works for us.’

Mr Hazzard admitted hospital staff were under intense growing pressure because of the latest huge outbreak and pleaded with Sydneysiders to be careful.

‘If you can just follow the rules but also get your vaccinations you are relieving some of that pressure on our frontline staff,’ he said on Friday.

‘The issue for us now as we see the hospital system and ambulances working under massive pressure is that each one of us can be empowered to change our ways.’

NSW premier Dom Perrottet said the state had now adopted the new Covid guidelines agreed by the National Cabinet at Thursday’s crisis meeting.

Under the new guidelines, close contacts are only people within your household, accommodation or aged care facility who have tested positive, or where NSW Health fears there has been a high rate of infection and notifies individuals.

Close contacts in NSW must now isolate for seven days from the date of exposure and get a PCR test as soon as possible. 

If you a rapid antigen test comes back negative on day six, you can leave isolation, but high risk areas like health care or jails must be avoided for another seven days.

Anyone testing positive must also isolate for seven days from the date of the positive test, but can leave isolation without any further tests after seven days.

They must also avoid high risk areas for just three days after coming out of quarantine.

The higher bar for close contacts compared to confirmed positive cases  is a reflection of a higher risk of infection from asymptomatic cases, health officials said.

Any one else simply must monitor for Covid symptoms and get a PCR test if they develop or if a rapid antigen test comes back positive. 

Premier Perrottet said the new rules mean most people could get out of the queue for a PCR test immediately.  

‘If you are not required to be tested with a PCR test, don’t line up because you’ll be taking the place of somebody who was required to receive that PCR test,’ he said.

‘If you do not need a test, if you are not required to by New South Wales Health, please do not line up. It’s incredibly important.

‘I understand that that’s a change, and it will take some time to adjust.’

But he insisted: ‘It’s incredibly important that those people who need a test, get a test and we have a turnaround time as quickly as possible.

‘This is a new approach that will ensure we keep people safe. We keep society open, and we have a strong next year.’

 More to follow 

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