Two more Hunter people have died and almost 100 are in hospital with COVID-19 as Premier Dominic Perrottet tightens restrictions on singing and dancing in pubs to slow the omicron outbreak.
NSW Health issued modelling on Friday which said 6000 COVID patients could be in hospital by the end of January under a worst-case scenario, three times the record 1738 admissions now.
Hunter New England Health added 2430 cases on Friday, a drop of almost 1000 on the day before, but hospital admissions rose by 10 to 99. NSW reported 38,625 cases, taking the three-day total above 100,000.
The state government will make vaccination boosters mandatory for all teachers, health workers and other front-line staff under new rules being devised by Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
The government has banned singing and dancing in pubs, clubs, restaurants and theatres until January 27, though the restriction does not apply to performers.
"As well ... we'll continue to encourage people to minimise mingling," Premier Dominic Perrottet said. "If you're in a hospitality venue, if you can sit down while drinking, please do so."
Mr Perrottet said the health system would "extend the usual holiday suspension of non-urgent elective surgery through to February" and use private hospital capacity to help manage the omicron outbreak.
He insisted his decision to scrap masks and QR codes in mid-December had made no difference to case numbers now.
"No, I think you would see exactly the same, and that's been brought out right across the country and the world right now," he said.
Nevertheless, he reintroduced masks, QR codes and density limits two weeks ago along with tweaking restrictions again on Friday.
NSW Health and the Premier's department will "risk-assess" major events in the "coming weeks".
The omicron wave claimed the Tamworth Country Music Festival and Golden Guitar Awards on Friday when organisers announced the twin events had been postponed.
The Tamworth local government area recorded 254 new cases on Friday.
An unvaccinated Lake Macquarie man in his 80s and a vaccinated Port Stephens man in his 70s were among the 11 new COVID deaths reported in NSW on Friday. Both had underlying health conditions.
The state death toll is 51 in the past two weeks. Eight people have died with COVID in the Hunter in the past two months.
The NSW Health modelling shows the state's hospital load likely will peak at the end of January.
Its worst-case model predicts 6000 people will be hospitalised and 600 of them will be in intensive care, four-and-a-half times the current ICU load of 134.
"Overseas experiences have shown that this will rise quickly and pass quickly," NSW Health deputy secretary Susan Pearce said.
"We believe by the middle of February we will be certainly well past the peak of this."
The "most realistic" model predicts 4700 beds will be needed at the peak, 273 of them in ICU.
At the height of the delta outbreak in September, 1268 people were in hospital with infections and 244 in intensive care.
Under a moderate model, hospitalisations would peak at 3158, including 270 in ICU.
Public hospitals have 9500 beds and private hospitals at least 3000, but on Thursday 8000 public beds were already occupied, a fifth of them by COVID-19 patients.
Mr Perrottet described the model predictions as "encouraging".
"Even on a worst-case scenario, we have the capacity in our health system right now," he said.
The Premier said NSW would update public health orders next week to make it mandatory to report positive rapid antigen tests on a system being developed by Service NSW.
The change will allow authorities to keep track of case numbers and link patients with health advice.
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