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NSW and Victoria record 32 new COVID-19 deaths as case numbers drop

Another 19 people have died with COVID-19 in NSW, with 13 deaths reported in Victoria.

The number of patients in NSW hospitals fell from 1,795 to 1,716.

Of those, 108 are in ICU, dropping from 121 on Thursday and Wednesday’s 137.

The state reported 8,950 new cases of COVID-19, dropping from 10,130 on Thursday and 10,312 on Wednesday.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard and chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant will join other senior NSW Health staff, healthcare unions and academics in appearing before parliament’s public accountability committee on Friday.

It is the first hearing since September, with the state coming out of lockdown and weathering its Omicron wave since then.

The reopening of NSW and recent challenges facing the aged care and health sectors will be under scrutiny.

More than one million people have been infected and nearly 1,200 have died since the most recent hearing, committee chair and Greens MP David Shoebridge said.

“This has placed extreme pressure on our health care and aged care sectors, along with many other industries,” he said.

“We welcome the opportunity to ask important questions relating to the minister’s handling of the pandemic over the last four months.”

In Victoria, 553 people are in hospital after contracting COVID-19, slightly up from 543 on Thursday, with 82 in ICU and 23 on ventilators.

The state recorded 8,521 new infections, down from 9,391 cases on Thursday and 9,908 cases on Wednesday.

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton has extended the deadline for another four weeks in order for essential workers to get a booster vaccine.

It means health and aged care, emergency, disability, quarantine and food distribution workers eligible for a third dose before 12 January will now have until 12 March to receive their booster.

Workers in those sectors who became eligible after 12 January must have received their third vaccine dose by 29 March.

Healthcare workers must provide evidence of their vaccination status or a medical exemption to continue working, according to Mr Sutton.

It comes as Australians will need a booster dose to be considered “up to date” with their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Following the latest advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), people over 16 years who have received a COVID-19 booster will be considered “up to date”. 

The updated advice from the advisory group will come into effect at the end of March.

More to come.