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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Anita Beaumont

Hunter's terrible 2022 toll: 543 COVID-related deaths to date

Dr Kerry Chant

THE latest COVID-19 wave has peaked in NSW, health authorities say, as the Hunter recorded more than 4700 new cases in a week.

The latest NSW respiratory surveillance report shows that in the week ending December 10, there were 10 COVID-related deaths in Hunter New England.

To date, the Hunter has recorded 543 COVID-related deaths this year.

There were 79 people in Hunter New England admitted to hospital due to COVID-19, including four in intensive care.

So far this year, there have been more than 392,700 positive cases of COVID-19 recorded in Hunter New England alone.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said a "numbers of indicators" suggest we had reached the peak of this latest COVID-19 wave.

"While this is good news, we are still seeing a high number of cases across the state and encourage you and the community at large to remain vigilant and take some simple steps to protect yourself and others," Dr Chant said. "I'd like to remind everyone of the importance of staying at home if you have any cold or flu symptoms.

"Please do not visit hospitals or aged care centres if you have any symptoms, even if you have a negative RAT test. RAT tests often will not pick up COVID early on in the illness. We don't want to see other respiratory illnesses like flu and RSV spread in these high risk settings."

Patients will soon need a referral in order to get a free COVID PCR test under sweeping changes to how the country manages the virus.

Under a new national management plan for 2023, the government is set to move away from "COVID exceptionalism".

A referral from a medical or nurse practitioner will be needed in order for patients to receive a free PCR test at locations that aren't run by a state or territory government. Only state or territory-operated PCR clinics will be able to accept patients without referrals. The plan says testing won't be used as a surveillance tool, but will instead be targeted towards helping eligible patients get faster access to antiviral treatments. Access to antivirals will be provided following a positive PCR or RAT.

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