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There are 557 COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals, including 60 in intensive care, with 6062 new cases reported on Tuesday as testing clinics brace for another round of public holiday queues and healthcare worker isolation rules are adjusted.
There was one new death reported on Tuesday, after three deaths on Monday including the state’s first fatality linked to the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
A total of 93,581 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday night, down from 97,241 the previous day.
A security worker assists with cars waiting for Mona Vale Hospital COVID-19 testing clinic on Monday.Credit:Jessica Hromas
Due to Boxing Day falling on Sunday, Tuesday is another public holiday and NSW COVID-19 testing clinics are again either closed or operating at reduced hours.
On Monday night, after NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard flagged potential changes on the weekend, NSW Health announced isolation rules would be “modified” for healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19.
Health workers who are close contacts of a COVID-19 case in their household will be able to leave isolation and return to work after seven days if they have had a negative PCR test on day six and follow an approved risk assessment plan, including daily rapid antigen testing.
Previously, staff were excluded from the workplace for 14 days due to the requirement for close contacts to avoid high-risk settings, such as hospitals.
NSW Health said other changes have been made “to reduce the number of days healthcare workers are excluded from the workplace”, after more than 2000 staff were furloughed across the state.
Those exposed to COVID-19 in the community by friends or family in a social setting will be able to return to work following a negative PCR test on day two, while healthcare workers exposed in the workplace will have isolation and testing requirements determined by a workplace risk assessment.
“These changes will result in a substantial number of staff being back to work within a week,” NSW Health said.
Meanwhile, approximately 995 people tested at SydPath COVID-19 clinics on December 23 and 24 were sent a text message indicating they had a negative result before their “true result” had actually been determined, the laboratory said in a statement on Monday.
It said those impacted would have received their accurate test results by Monday night and apologised for the error.
“We have identified what occurred and can confirm it was related to a specific human error. SydPath have put procedures in place to ensure this cannot happen again,” the pathology service said.
“This event comes at a time of unprecedented COVID-testing activity and SydPath’s people, as with all pathology teams throughout NSW, are working around the clock to respond.”
The mistake followed 400 COVID-positive people who were swabbed on December 22 and 23 being incorrectly advised they were negative.
SydPath confirmed on Monday everyone in that group had been advised of their positive test result.
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