The Omicron outbreak in NSW is mirroring the situation in Europe, where daily case records and rising hospital admissions are spooking health officials.
France reported a new record of 208,000 fresh infections on Wednesday, prompting authorities in Paris to reintroduce compulsory mask wearing outdoors.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran described omicron as a "tidal wave".
The seven-day moving average of daily COVID deaths in France has risen from 62 to 169 in the past four weeks.
Hospital admissions in the UK, which hit a new daily case peak of 183,000, have jumped 74 per cent in a week and are now at their highest level since mid-February.
English hospitals admitted 1281 COVID-19 patients on Christmas Day.
Boris Johnson has vowed to keep UK hospitality venues open on New Year's Eve, but other countries, including France and the Netherlands, have extended the closure of nightclubs.
The US is also reporting more than 200,000 new cases a day, but, so far, hospitalisations are rising only slightly.
As NSW and other parts of the country are discovering, the meteoric spike in case numbers has not yet led to overwhelming death tolls, but it has caused significant economic and social disruption, which is why national cabinet held an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss relaxing testing and isolation rules.
The US has already cut COVID-positive isolation from 10 days to five based on evidence that people are most commonly infectious for several days before and after they are symptomatic.
The UK has chopped isolation back to seven days.
The moves prompted World Health Organisation executive Dr Michael Ryan to warn governments not to radically change health controls without first seeing more evidence on omicron.
NSW added a record 12,226 cases on Thursday and another 121 hospital admissions, up from 625 to 746.
The Hunter reported 708 cases, a similar tally to this time last week, but testing capacity was severely limited over Christmas.
Many European countries now have case rates exceeding 1000 per 100,000 people.
Denmark, with a population of 5.8 million, leads the way with 1873 per 100,000, or 1.8 per cent, now officially classified as having caught COVID in the past week.
In NSW, 0.65 per cent of the population has tested positive for COVID in the past week, though the true infection rate in both countries could be far higher.
The Hunter New England Health area has a confirmed case rate of 0.45 per cent in the past seven days, though, again, this is distorted by testing limitations.
Denmark has a similar two-dose vaccination rate to Australia's but has delivered booster doses to 42 per cent of its total population.
The good news is that, despite the Scandinavian country's higher per capita case count and 23,000 new infections on Wednesday, its hospital admissions are at 675 and ICU numbers at 77, both comparable with NSW, at least for now.
The number of COVID patients in intensive care in NSW edged up from 61 to 63 on Thursday, and those on ventilators rose from 23 to 24.
Any attempt to square off differing nations' COVID statistics comes with the caveat that culture, immunity, weather and other factors vary greatly across the world.
But, as University of Newcastle professor Nick Talley pointed out to the Newcastle Herald this week, there appears little doubt we're in for a "wild ride" before this latest wave of the coronavirus has disappeared into the sunset.