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Covid-19 travel restrictions Australia, Christmas Eve flights, testing

People line up for a Covid test at the Gold Coast University Hospital. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
People line up for a Covid test at the Gold Coast University Hospital. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

New mask rules, long testing lines and a rush for rapid antigen tests has added chaos to Australia’s Christmas preparations as the Omicron variant continues to pressure the nation’s health network.

The prospect of a last-minute shopping rush, bumper-to-bumper-traffic and forecast rain is usually enough to ratchet up Christmas Eve stress levels, but this year Covid has thrown up another set of logistic hurdles.

NSW reported 5612 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday, with intensive care admissions rising from 45 to 53.

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There are 382 Covid patients in the state’s hospitals.

Victoria recorded 2095 new cases and eight Covid deaths in the past 24 hours.

There are now 397 infected people in hospital with 75 active in intensive care and 40 on a ventilator.

Queensland recorded 589 new infections.

Long wait for tests

Thousands of people face lengthy and frustrating waits as Covid testing lines snake around the block, with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet even urging residents to avoid getting a test unless absolutely necessary.

People line up for a Covid test outside a clinic near the Mater Hospital. Cases in Queensland are still on the rise following the state reaching a first dose vaccination rate of 90 per cent. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
People line up for a Covid test outside a clinic near the Mater Hospital. Cases in Queensland are still on the rise following the state reaching a first dose vaccination rate of 90 per cent. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

“If you don’t feel unwell, and you’re not required to get tested by NSW Health, please don’t, because your spot in the queue is taking the place or slowing down people who are sick, who are required by New South Wales Health to get tested. But in addition to that, it also slows down our capacity to get that test result back,” Mr Perrottet said on Thursday.

Improved vaccination rates and reports of “milder” symptoms from the Omicron variant have so far kept a relative lid on hospitalisation rates, but the nation’s health systems nonetheless face a testing time to handle the predicted holiday surge in Covid cases.

A predicted scramble for rapid antigen tests – as well as renewed venue and mask wearing rules around the country – could also make that final trip to the shops an interesting one.

New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia on Thursday announced the reinstatement of density and mask rules in order to slow the spread of the virus.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australians should not fear the increase in virus cases because the number of people admitted to hospital will serious illness had not grown. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australians should not fear the increase in virus cases because the number of people admitted to hospital will serious illness had not grown. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

Indoor masks must be worn as of midnight in NSW as the state recorded 5715 new Covid-19 cases and one new death on Thursday.

QR code check-ins are also mandatory in most settings including hospitality and retail.

Hospitality venues must also abide by a new two square metre indoor rule from December 27.

Western Australia has avoided going into a lockdown before Christmas, but masks will return after a man infected with Covid-19 visited multiple spots across Perth, including shops and nightclubs.

WA Premier Mark McGowan has reinstated mask rules after a Covid scare on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sharon Smith
WA Premier Mark McGowan has reinstated mask rules after a Covid scare on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sharon Smith

Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino also announced on Thursday that masks would be required in all indoor settings, except homes, for people aged over eight.

Masks will also be required when moving around major events with more than 30,000 people, but not when patrons are seated outdoors.

Domestic visitors to Victoria no longer need a travel permit, unless they have been overseas in the past 14 days, and do not need to quarantine.

Queensland recorded 369 cases on Thursday, while there were 484 new infections in South Australia.

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