NSW posts 48,768 virus cases, 20 deaths

NSW has recorded almost 50,000 new COVID-19 cases in the latest reporting period.
NSW has recorded almost 50,000 new COVID-19 cases in the latest reporting period.

NSW has recorded almost 50,000 new COVID-19 cases and a further 20 deaths as the state government extends its rental relief scheme for small businesses amid the Omicron outbreak.

Treasurer Matt Kean on Saturday announced the scheme will be extended for two months until March 13.

"Small business is the engine room of our economy and we need to make sure we support impacted businesses through this latest Omicron wave," he said in a statement.

"With staff shortages and reduced foot traffic, many businesses are struggling at the moment but the ability to negotiate rent will give them a buffer so they can keep the lights on now and recover more quickly."

Commercial and retail tenants will qualify for the relief if they have an annual turnover of less than $5 million and continue to meet eligibility criteria for since discontinued JobSaver or micro-business grant programs.

Landlords will also have more time to apply for land tax relief, with applications extended until February 28 for those eligible.

It comes as 48,768 positive results were returned the 24 hours to Saturday, with just under 22,000 of them collected from rapid antigen kits although around 15,000 of these were returns from the previous seven days.

There are 2576 patients in NSW hospitals, up on the 2525 reported on Friday. Of them, 193 are in intensive care and 58 need ventilation. During the Delta peak in September, there were 244 people in ICU.

The state is 93.8 per cent double dosed for eligible residents 16 or over.

More than 24 per cent have also had a booster, while 8.9 per cent of children aged five to 11 have received their first jab.

While more people are dying with the virus in NSW than at any other time during the pandemic authorities maintain things are going better than expected and predict the outbreak will soon peak.

Saturday's fatalities bring the tally to 146 deaths reported over the past eight days, though a portion of those are understood to be historic and were classified following coronial investigations.

The latest 11 men and nine women to die were mostly aged in their 80s and 90s. Sixteen were vaccinated and four not.

Worst case scenario modelling suggests 6000 people could be in hospital at the peak of the outbreak, with 10 per cent in intensive care.

However even best case scenario predictions paint a grimmer picture than reality, estimating 3158 people would be in hospital.

Premier Dominic Perrottet on Friday said the state had "a difficult few weeks ahead" but things not currently being as bad as feared was "very reassuring and encouraging".

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant warned about half the people in NSW could become infected during the Omicron wave, though some would be asymptomatic and may never even know they had contracted the virus.

Meanwhile, the number of positive cases among detainees at Villawood detention centre has at least tripled since the confirmation of six cases in an outbreak on Tuesday.

However, reports from inside the facility suggest the case number could be as high as 68.

Australian Associated Press