The NSW government wants to make residents report positive rapid antigen test results, saying a mandate will give authorities a clear picture of the spread of COVID-19.
The state is about to move into a dual reporting system for infections that includes positive, self-administered RAT results and the normal PCR results.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant warned on Monday that the day’s lower daily case number of 20,293 new infections was “conservative” because RAT results were yet to be officially included.
While the system to report RAT results is not yet fully functioning, the current requirement is effectively voluntary.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard told The Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday the government wants to mandate the reporting of positive RAT results.
His department has sought advice from the Crown Solicitor’s Office on how it can be legally enforced.
“It comes with the added benefit that it might also open the door to federal financial assistance if you’re off work for the week. The bottom line is it is a must-do, even if there is no fine,” Mr Hazzard told the SMH.
“At the end of the day, it’s an obligation on all of us to make sure that we log in to the Service NSW app, particularly as it will give a clear picture of how the virus is moving through the community.”
Meanwhile, primary school-aged children aged between five and 11 years on Monday began receiving their first dose of a special Pfizer vaccination.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet remains committed to getting children back in classrooms later this month, despite a recommended eight-week gap between the first and second doses for this cohort.
More than 78 per cent of children aged 12 to 15 are already fully vaccinated.
NSW on Monday recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic, with 18 dead including a three-year-old boy who had significant underlying health conditions.
Hospital admissions also climbed as 2030 people were hospitalised with the virus and 159 were in intensive care, about half of whom were unvaccinated.
Monday’s fatalities surpassed the previous high of 16 deaths reported on Sunday.
While the number of new infections reported on Monday was lower, at 20,293, for previous days, case numbers are expected to rise this week when the government updates the ServiceNSW app to allow people to register positive RAT results.
The first of the state’s 50 million test order will begin arriving this week, and the government is looking to source another 50 million RATs for distribution in late February and March.
The state-procured tests are intended for schools, social housing, vulnerable, remote and Indigenous communities, Mr Perrottet says.
But the rest of NSW can expect to see “a substantial amount of supply being available through private supply chains as well”.
Meanwhile, isolation requirements have changed for some essential workers in a bid to combat stock shortages in supermarkets.
Furloughed food logistics and manufacturing staff are allowed to leave self-isolation to attend work if they have no symptoms, wear a mask, and undergo daily rapid antigen testing.
The hospitality sector has called for similar treatment and while Mr Perrottet says he “completely understands” their concerns, the focus needs to be on essential workers for the time being.
Get the latest, breaking national and world news delivered straight to your inbox with the Inquirer Daily Newsletter. Sign up here.