NSW has recorded 18,278 new cases with 1,066 in hospital and two deaths, while Victoria had 7,172 new infections.
An additional 83 people were admitted to ICU in NSW on overnight on Sunday – up from 79 on Saturday.
There were 472 new hospital admissions during the same time period in Victoria – an increase from 428 on New Year’s Day – with 52 in intensive care, down from 54.
Sunday was the first time there were more than 1,000 Covid patients in NSW hospitals since October 2. The most ever recorded in was 1,268 on September 21.
But with the number of coronavirus patients in hospital almost doubling since Christmas, some medical experts predict 100,000 in NSW by the end of January.
Professor Adrian Esterman, the chair of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of South Australia, holds grave fears for the state’s health system.
The number of new Covid cases in NSW hit 18,278 on Sunday. Pictured: A group of friends celebrating the new year in Sydney on Friday evening
Experts fear the number of new Covid cases in NSW could reach 100,000 by the end of January. Pictured: A health care worker at St Vincent’s Drive-through Clinic at Bondi Beach
Mr Esterman said the number of new cases has been doubling every four days.
‘In four days time that is about 40,000 cases, and four days after that 80,000 cases, so you can see how easily it can reach 100,000 cases,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The professor said the government should reintroduce more Covid restrictions to stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed before the outbreak peaked.
‘The health system is creaking at the seams,’ he said.
‘Just suppose five per cent have it bad enough to go to hospital – that’s 1000 patients going into the system every day.
‘How are they going to cope with that? The answer is they can’t. Something has to change.’
Pictured: People lining up at the pre-departure testing clinic at Sydney International airport
Sydneysiders have been queuing at testing centres for hours amid the latest Omicron outbreak. Pictured: People waiting for Covid tests at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
But NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet maintains that the number of hospitalisations due to Covid-19 is at ‘manageable levels’.
‘We will continue adapting our response as needed and if the facts and our evidence base change, we will adapt again,’ he said.
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid, who is among the most cautious of medicos who regularly calls for stricter rules but is not an infectious disease expert, claimed lockdowns could be necessary.
He said even though Covid patients with the Omicron variant were not as sick as those who had the deadlier Delta variant, ‘they’re still taking up beds’.
‘Doctors are not seeing massive numbers of Covid cases yet in Victoria, but they’re still extremely busy [and] they’re watching what’s happening in NSW and they know that it is coming,’ he told The Age.
Mr Khorshid also said he expects restrictions on elective surgery after Christmas to make more space for Covid patients.
Pandemic record case numbers prompted residents to rush to get tested at a drive-thru clinic in Bondi
Pictured: Members of the public queue in their cars for tests at the St Vincent’s Drive-through Clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney on New Year’s Eve
Samples collected over the Christmas period in Victoria show the Omicron variant comprises 76 per cent of all cases – less than a month after it was first detected in the state.
Dr Khorshid said state premiers are resigned to the idea that everyone will get Covid, and suggested they focus on encouraging people to get their booster shots.
On Friday it emerged that Health Minister Martin Foley rejected advice from Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton to close dance floors and force people attending major events to have a have a negative rapid antigen test.
Mr Sutton said: ‘Without additional public health interventions, there is a clear and realistic possibility of widespread infection and serious illness, an unsustainable burden on the health system and substantial disruption to economic and social activities throughout the community.’
Indoor mask mandates have been reintroduced in NSW and Victoria. Pictured: Health care workers administer tests at the St Vincent’s Drive-through Clinic at Bondi Beach on New Year’s Day
Victorian Roads and Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll said the government had no plans to go back into lockdown and did not believe cases would hit 25,000 – as experts previously predicted.
On Saturday – the first day of the new year – the number of new cases hit 7,442 in Victoria and 22,577 in NSW.
To combat the outbreak, NSW and Victoria reintroduced indoor mask mandates and QR codes before Christmas.
The NSW Government urged people not to get tested unless they have symptoms in an effort to reduce long wait times at testing centres.