Outbreaks in several NSW regions continue to grow rapidly as the state gears up for unrestricted travel to resume for the first time in four months.
There were 304 new locally acquired infections and three deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday.
The cluster in the Hunter New England local government area grew by 83 new cases – up 34 on the day before, and accounting for more than a quarter of the state’s new cases.
Once again the Murrumbidgee Local Health District, which includes the Victorian border town of Albury, recorded the second-highest daily tally with 38 new cases, while Wodonga on the other side of the border recorded 46 cases.
Some 22 new cases were also recorded on the mid-north coast.
The highly anticipated move to unfettered travel to the regions is due to start on Monday after being delayed over lagging vaccination numbers in the regions.
Premier Dominic Perrottet has hinted it could happen sooner, saying his COVID economic recovery committee will be examining “aspects of the roadmap” this week.
While on average more than 85 per cent of NSW residents aged over 16 are fully vaccinated, about 60 regions have less than 85 per cent coverage and 14 have a vaccine uptake of less than 75 per cent, she says.
UNSW epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws has called for a “sensible” delay – at least four weeks – to travel to the regions.
Meanwhile, the number of people in NSW hospitals with COVID-19 continues to decline, with 97 people in intensive care of which 43 are ventilated.
The death toll from the current outbreak, which began in mid-June, is 506.
Of the NSW residents aged 16 and over, 93.2 per cent have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 85.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.
In the 12 to 15-year-old age group, 78.3 per cent have had their first dose and 53 per cent are fully vaccinated.