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11,201 new cases, 625 in hospital as Premier Dominic Perrottet defends decision to ease restrictions


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Long lines have formed at PCR testing clinics over the festive period, with most clinics open over the Christmas and new year period but some closed or operating on reduced hours, NSW Health states.

Despite numerous facilities closing at midday, particularly over the public holidays this week, Mr Perrottet claimed they were operating at “full capacity”.

“Many of those clinics were not going to be open because they need to get their testing results back as quickly as possible. We have ensured and worked incredibly hard with both the private companies and NSW Health to have them operating at maximum capacity, and they are,” he said.

In a direct plea, Mr Perrottet asked people who are not unwell and who have not been asked to get a PCR test by NSW Health to “please don’t do so”.

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“I know this runs counter to everything we’ve been saying over the last two years in relation to testing, so I know we’re going through an adjustment phase … but there are many people who are lining up for tests who do not need them,” he said.

Prior to the Queensland Premier’s announcement, NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said tourism testing was “clogging up the system” and called for consistency across the states, noting South Australia was now also allowing pre-arrival rapid antigen tests.

“The most important thing is that people only turn up to get tested if they’re symptomatic,” Mr Ayres said on Seven’s Sunrise program on Wednesday morning.

“If you don’t need to get tested, please don’t go and line up in one of those queues.”

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Mr Perrottet also defended his decision to ease restrictions on December 15, including allowing the unvaccinated into hospitality venues and non-essential shops. Indoor masks and QR codes in settings such as supermarkets have since been reintroduced in the past week.

Asked whether he regretted dropping restrictions, Mr Perrottet replied: “No, not at all.”

“We’ve always said as we open up, case numbers will increase,” he said. “These are the difficulties we’ll go through … but I think NSW, despite this, is in a very strong position, and I’m very confident about 2022.”

St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney pathology service SydPath on Tuesday said it had closed its East Sydney Arts Centre and Rushcutters Bay Park testing clinics until further notice, and its Bondi Beach drive-through clinic would open from 8.30am and 12pm.

Its current test processing time is “up to four days”, according to its website.

The service has blamed human error for two bungles in the past week, including 400 COVID-positive people wrongly being advised they were negative, and a further 950 people being sent premature negative results when 486 of them were positive.

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