NSW has recorded a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases, with almost twice as many people being confirmed with the virus, as people with no symptoms and those looking to travel interstate are directed away from testing queues.
The state reported 11,201 cases on Wednesday, compared with 6062 on Tuesday.
Results from 157,758 tests were returned in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, an increase of more than 60,000 tests over the previous 24-hour period.
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant says the high number of tests will fluctuate in coming days as a backlog of test results are returned.
She advised people to limit their mobility around the community and allow PCR tests to be freed up for people who are actually experiencing symptoms or who have been advised by authorities to get tested.
There are 625 people in hospital with the virus, 61 of them in intensive care, with 23 on ventilators.
Premier Dominic Perrottet says it's "incredibly pleasing" the state still has strong capacity in hospitals and intensive care units, thanks to a high vaccination rate, and boosters for those eligible.
"The overwhelming majority of those in ICU are unvaccinated," Mr Perrottet says.
He says he's looking forward to discussions to change close contact definitions and isolation periods at a national cabinet meeting on Thursday with the hope of securing a national approach.
Ensuring people who can't easily afford rapid antigen test kits can still access them will also be a focus of the meeting, the premier says.
The state has 50 million rapid antigen tests on the way, after ordering another 30 million on Wednesday.
Labor says the state's COVID testing regime has reached "breaking point".
"And this has come about because we've got a premier who refuses to take responsibility for not following the health advice two weeks ago to ensure people remained wearing masks and continued to use those QR codes," opposition health spokesperson Ryan Park said on Wednesday.
NSW also announced a further three deaths on Wednesday.
Two women, one in their 90s and another in their 70s who both became infected at the Warabrook Aged Care facility in Newcastle have died.
A man in his 80s from Sydney's inner west died at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
All three were vaccinated but had underlying health conditions.
NSW Health says the state's testing capacity "is currently under enormous pressure", and those looking to receive a negative test before travelling to Queensland are now being told not to take up space in the queue.
It says they're unlikely to receive results within 72 hours and by the time they do they will no longer be required.
Queensland will accept rapid antigen tests instead of PCR tests for travellers from interstate hotspots from January 1.
"There are many people who are lining up in those queues who do not need to be there and we are doing everything that we can to increase capacity and put downward pressure on those queues," Mr Perrottet says.
The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia president Lawrie Bott says laboratories are dealing with a previously unimaginable level of testing.
The equipment and expertise of the profession are not easily or quickly scaled up, and priority needs to go to patients who are unwell.
While rapid antigen tests can be useful, "PCR testing remains the most accurate test for COVID-19 and the only test that public health authorities can rely upon for the diagnosis of COVID-19 infection", Dr Bott says.
Australian Associated Press
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