The COVID-19 wave has peaked in NSW but experts warn health measures will be needed as the nation faces future outbreaks.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant says the state reached its COVID peak this week, based on a number of indicators.
"While this is good news, we're still seeing a high number of cases across the state," she said on Thursday.
About 40,700 people were officially diagnosed with the virus across NSW over the past week, about 930 fewer than recorded over the previous seven days.
But key indicators like hospital admissions and positive PCR tests are declining, indicating the peak in infections has been reached, Dr Chant said.
The weekly average of daily hospital admissions is also slightly down.
In Victoria, case numbers have dropped from more than 27,000 to less than 25,000 in a week.
National figures released last week showed the rise in COVID cases was slowing after steep increases in November.
University of South Australia epidemiologist Adrian Esterman said a nationwide peak was approaching but warned the data was based only on reported numbers.
"One of the problems is we don't have a good handle on how many cases there are," he told AAP.
"All we have is the reported cases and they're the tip of the iceberg because most people these days aren't reporting it."
Access to free PCR tests will be limited under changes to the national COVID-19 plan announced on Monday.
From next year, a referral from a medical or nurse practitioner will be needed for patients to receive a free PCR test at locations not run by a state or territory government.
Prof Esterman said he expected the COVID wave to reach its peak this week or the next, then cases would slowly decline before another wave started - a process that would continue for the foreseeable future.
He chided state and federal authorities for loosening measures designed to slow the spread of the virus.
"They have decided the Australian population has to live with COVID-19 and they keep talking about normalising things," he said, noting about 12 per cent of people infected with the virus ended up with long-term health problems.
WEEKLY VIRUS DATA BY JURISDICTION:
* NSW: 40,695 cases, 74 deaths
* Victoria: 24,652 cases, 84 deaths
* ACT: 3018 cases, one death
* Queensland: 16,600, 33 deaths.