NSW, Victoria discuss return to school in wake of Omicron

NSW has reported 20,148 new Covid-19 cases and 30 deaths as the state's parents wait to hear the government's plan to keep children safe when school returns.

After dropping for two consecutive days for the first time in a month, the number of hospitalisations increased again on Saturday, with 2762 people in hospital.

However, the number of people in ICU decreased by five to 204.

That's better than NSW Health's "best-case scenario" predictions, based on outbreaks in London and South Africa, that projected a peak of 3158 people in hospital and 270 in ICU.

Premier Dominic Perrottet again stressed on Saturday that vaccinations and boosters were key to living alongside the virus, and the health system is "under pressure" but coping.

He says "the facts and the evidence speaks for itself" on vaccinations.

Fully vaccinated people make up 93.9 per cent of the population in NSW, and the significantly smaller number of unvaccinated people make up almost 50 per cent of the people in intensive care units with the virus, the premier says.

There were 8566 cases reported from rapid antigen tests on Saturday and NSW Health says 7687 are from the previous seven days.

Authorities also note "there may be some cases included in these numbers where people have reported positive RATs on multiple days ... or had a positive PCR test during the same reporting period".

A week before the NSW school term is due to begin the state is yet to release a plan to return kids to classrooms amid the continuing outbreak.

"We are doing it in a way that is safe for parents, safe for teachers and safe for children, and we'll be announcing those plans alongside the Victorian Government shortly," Mr Perrottet said on Saturday.

Some 78.4 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds had been fully vaccinated on Saturday and 82.6 per cent had received at least one dose.


Victoria has recorded 16,016 new Covid-19 cases and 20 deaths, as the state attempts to beef up substitute teacher reserves ahead of expected disruptions when classes resume.

The new infections, confirmed by the health department on Saturday, include 8432 from PCR tests and 7584 from rapid antigen tests.

It brings the total number of active cases in the state to 217,505, which includes 1029 people in hospital, a decrease of 67 on Friday's figures.

The number of Victorians in intensive care sits at 120 and there are 39 people on a ventilator.

It comes as the Victorian government calls on inactive or retired teachers, education support staff, retired principals and staff with administrative experience to put their hands up to fill Covid-related vacancies in state schools.

Workers who join the pool will be sent to local schools to replace teachers and other education support staff at short notice, if and when they contract Covid-19 and need to isolate.

"Every sector is under pressure from the Omicron variant and education will be no exception - but we're taking action early to make sure staff absences don't mean huge disruptions for students' learning," Education Minister James Merlino said in a statement on Saturday.

The Victorian government is still yet to detail its back-to-school plan but has vowed students will return to classes when term one begins on January 31.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Victorian public sector workers are being offered half a day's paid leave to get their booster vaccine.

More than 300,000 full-time, part-time and casual teachers, paramedics, police officers, firefighters and other public sector workers will be eligible under the arrangement, which was also used for first and second doses.

Employers will foot the bill, unless the payments amount to a "significant additional cost".

Treasurer Tim Pallas urged the private sector to "do the right thing" and match the state government's half-day leave pledge for its workers.

Victoria's third dose rate has risen to 29 per cent.

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