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Virus spreads ahead of NSW regional travel

New local coronavirus infections continue to be detected in regional NSW as the state prepares to open up travel between metropolitan Sydney and the regions.

NSW recorded 268 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and two more deaths on Friday, with more than half of them detected outside Greater Sydney.

Premier Dominic Perrottet has defended the decision to delay until Monday travel for holidays and recreation between the areas from the 80 per cent vaccination mark.

“That was an unpopular decision for many people in Sydney, but it was the right decision for regional NSW,” Mr Perrottet said on Friday.

In the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday there were 54 positive tests returned in the Hunter New England Local Health District, 52 in the Murrumbidgee area and 13 on the state’s Mid North Coast, with additional cases in the Illawarra Shoalhaven region and Southern NSW.

There were two deaths reported on Friday – a man and a woman who had acquired their infections at different aged care facilities.

There have been 566 COVID-19 related deaths in NSW since the start of the pandemic.

There are 363 people hospitalised with the virus, with 80 people in intensive care, 32 of whom require ventilation.

Some 93.5 per cent of NSW residents over 16 have received at least one vaccine dose, with 87 per cent fully vaccinated.

Of those aged 12 to 15, 78.7 per cent have had one dose and 56.7 per cent have received both.

Meanwhile, a pilot program for rapid antigen home testing kits in public schools will begin in Albury, near the Victorian border, next week.

The kits will be handed out by schools for use at home by staff and students, who have to undergo a test twice a week as part of community surveillance.

They will also be used for close contact testing to identify positive cases on school sites.

However, anyone who gets a positive result will have to get a standard test straight away to confirm the diagnosis.

In Sydney, at least 10 people either acquired the virus at Bondi’s Tea Gardens Hotel last Saturday or attended while infectious, NSW Health says.

The pub has been referred to the regulator for its COVID-safety compliance to be reviewed.

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