NSW won't consider COVID-19 'code brown'

Phoebe Loomes and Luke CostinAAP
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says healthcare teams are "pushing through this final wave of cases".
Camera IconNSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says healthcare teams are "pushing through this final wave of cases". Credit: AAP

A 'code brown' COVID-19 emergency response is not being considered for NSW hospitals, despite calls for relief for health workers in the state.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said healthcare teams are under stress but he is confident they are "pushing through this final wave" of cases.

"In relation to hospitalisations and ICU presentations, we're currently tracking better than the best-case scenario," he told the ABC on Thursday.

He said at this stage NSW would not follow the path of Victoria, which declared a code brown on Wednesday, allowing staff leave to be cancelled and hospitals to defer non-urgent treatments.

His comments came after ICU nurses rallied outside Westmead Hospital on Wednesday, saying they were working in "unsustainable conditions".

"Nurses and midwives are tired, angry and frustrated and feel that the NSW government isn't supporting them at all," nursing union official Shaye Candish said.

Australian Salaried Medical Union state president Tony Sara told AAP on Thursday, "The staff are doing it really hard, they're angry, they've reached the end of their tether".

Hospitalisations dropped by 82 on Thursday to 2781 patients.

The last time the daily hospitalisation figure fell was December 13, two days out from the state's lifting of most restrictions.

ICU patients reduced by five to 212, while the triple-dose vaccination rate in the state rose to 29 per cent.

Meanwhile, the recent easing of isolation times and close-contact rules for essential workers had released pressures on supply chains, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.

"It's all about getting the right balance between getting people back to work, and not overstressing your hospital system, which is of course under a lot of stress," he told reporters in Canberra.

"We believe we have that balance right."

While NSW had not immediately revealed its back-to-school plan, Mr Morrison said the federal government had agreed to split the cost 50-50 with states opting to surveillance-test students and teachers.

Mr Perrottet had earlier confirmed surveillance testing would play a role "at least in the short term" in ensuring schools remained open from day one of term one - February 1.

NSW Health has continued to urge the public to get booster shots, with the state reporting 25 deaths on Thursday.

Those fatalities included one person in their 30s, two in their 50s, and 17 over 80.

Eight of the 25 were unvaccinated. One had received one dose, and 16 had received at least two.

The unvaccinated remain disproportionately more likely to end up seriously ill, making up 27 per cent of hospital patients and 44 per cent of ICU admissions on January 16 when that snapshot was taken.

"Book into a vaccination clinic ... it's the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community against COVID-19," Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Jeremy McAnulty said.

Almost four-in-five primary school children in NSW are yet to receive their first vaccine dose.

Of the 30,825 positive results recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, 17,647 were from PCR tests and 13,178 were from rapid antigen tests.

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