Hunter New England Health no longer publishing daily case numbers

By Nick Bielby

There is anger over a decision to no longer publicly report daily COVID-19 case numbers in the Hunter New England Health District, with one MP accusing the NSW government of "hiding something from us".

It comes as the region recorded at least 1554 fresh infections in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, according to the latest PCR test results.

A Lake Macquarie woman in her 60s was among the 29 people who died across the state in the 24-hour period - the fifth time NSW has set a new record for its daily coronavirus death toll in less than a week.

There are at least 29,116 active cases in the district, including 109 people in hospital - nine of those in intensive care.

Hunter New England Health said on Friday afternoon it would no longer provide a daily report of new COVID-19 cases, because the centralisation of rapid antigen test results with NSW Health meant the local break-down - only PCR results - did not paint an accurate picture.

Daily updates on local hospitalisations, ICU patient numbers and deaths will continue to be provided and NSW Health will keep doing its daily statewide case number update.

Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery said she wondered whether the NSW government was not releasing local numbers because of concern that cases are rising.

"It feels like they're hiding something from us," she said.

"What has the government got to lose by giving us these numbers? It doesn't sit right with me and it doesn't sit right with the community."

Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said "clear and consistent information" had been a key factor in helping people make informed decisions about their health so far during the pandemic.

"Considering that we are now only starting to get the real picture of case numbers through RAT reporting, it is disappointing that this data is not going to be supplied," he said.

"I know that some people consider this to be useful and important information and I will still be providing updates on my social media based on the information that is available."

City of Newcastle councillor John Mackenzie called the decision a dereliction of duty on social media.

"This is an extremely disappointing decision," he told the Newcastle Herald.

"You can't manage what you don't measure and this information was crucial for councils and other agencies in the region in developing their responses.

"The lack of data will hamper our understanding of the scale and extent of risk locally, and our ability to respond proportionately and effectively."

Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison said the daily case number update was "vital to our community in understanding the movement of COVID through our communities".

"Case numbers are the earliest indicator we have for managing the pandemic," she said.

NSW Health began including RAT results along with PCR results in its daily update on Thursday after it became compulsory for people to register a positive test online on Wednesday.

However, for the past two days, Hunter New England Health has reported only PCR results.

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