State records 51,356 new cases of coronavirus, nine deaths

Rising numbers this week have prompted the government to reset density limits for hospitality venues, as businesses and supply chains bear the brunt of isolation requirements and sick staff unable to work.

NSW registered 45,098 new cases and nine deaths on Saturday. There are now 1,795 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in NSW.

Supermarket giant Woolworths has warned that more than 20 percent of staff at some facilities are out of work as many thousands of coronavirus cases and close contacts throughout the supply chain are causing shortages nationwide.

Intensive care units in Victoria are also struggling to find staff to fill shifts as thousands of healthcare workers, from cleaners to specialist doctors, are laid off after being infected or exposed to COVID-19.

The number of hospital admissions from the coronavirus has risen 50 per cent in a week to 644 patients – the equivalent of at least one major hospital in Melbourne – with the vast majority arriving at overcrowded emergency rooms before moving on to general hospital wards. The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU has remained relatively stable with 106 patients registered on Friday, compared to 97 a week ago.

In the meantime The Age can reveal more than 700 intensive care workers across Australia were unavailable for work on Friday. The figures are probably a significant underestimate because some hospitals do not report their absenteeism to the national database.

Of these, more than 300 were Victorian doctors and nurses, according to the federal Critical Health Resource Information System, a database used to monitor ICU capacity nationally.

Some health workers struggled to access rapid antigen testing, while dozens of ward assistants who help transfer critically ill patients arriving at the emergency department were quarantined after being exposed to or infected with the virus. Hospital cleaners, who are critical to infection control, were also isolating in large numbers.

Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday evening after developing symptoms of the virus.

Mr Frydenberg, who was staying at his holiday home on the Surf Coast over the festive season, shared the news in a social media post and said he and his family were in isolation at their Melbourne home.

“Like thousands of Australians, I tested positive for COVID-19 today,” the post reads.

“I have the common symptoms and am isolated with my family. My thoughts are with all those who have COVID – this is a difficult time, but we will get through this.”

Mr Frydenberg took a rapid antigen test on Friday and noted the positive result online, in accordance with Victoria’s new testing rules.

With Melissa Cunningham, Aisha Dow, Nick Bonyhady, Henrietta Cook, Marta Pascual Juanola

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