The government of New South Wales has refused to rule out using localised lockdowns to contain the state's rising Covid-19 cases.
The state has confirmed a sharp rise in Covid infections over the past two days, with 1360 cases recorded on Wednesday and 1742 new cases recorded today.
That is the highest daily total NSW has seen since early September. Case numbers dipped as low as 135 at the start of November before climbing in recent weeks.
NSW has been dealing with multiple superspreader events, with the rise being driven by outbreaks at pubs and clubs, particularly in the Newcastle area.
Speaking to Sunrise on Thursday morning, Minister for Jobs, Investment and Tourism, Stuart Ayres, said the government wouldn't shy away from introducing localised lockdowns if deemed necessary.
"[We] will keep the option open. As we reopen the economy, if we believe it is the right thing to do, that is an option on the table.
"This is why we are asking people to do the right thing, be cautious, get your booster shot, that is the most important thing you can do."
Ayres said the more people that get their booster shots, the less likely new restrictions would be needed.
He also hinted that unvaccinated could be placed back under tough restrictions if there was a rise in people presenting to hospital with the virus who haven't received their Covid-19 shot.
"The Premier made it very clear that if we see unvaccinated people making their way into hospital because they don't have that level of protection, the government will take action to protect people and our health system," Ayres said.
Unvaccinated residents can now enjoy the same freedoms as fully vaccinated people under yesterday's easing of restrictions, including going to pubs, restaurants, cinemas and attending large gatherings.
Two other major changes to the rules include eased restrictions around mask-wearing and QR code check-ins, with both now only required in certain "high risk" settings.
Aryes' comments come as another Newcastle venue, The Cambridge Hotel, was hit with confirmed Covid-19 cases overnight.
The Argyle House nightclub and Finnegan's Hotel are other Newcastle venues that have been linked to new Covid-19 cases.
NSW Health said it was likely that the "overwhelming majority of the cases in Newcastle" were the Omicron variant, with at least 110 cases now identified across the state.
Fears NSW could see '25,000 cases a day'
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard warned on Wednesday that NSW could face more than 25,000 cases a day by the end of January.
He said research from the University of NSW showed the state was on track for a significant rise in cases over the coming weeks.
"What they are telling us is that by the end of January we could be looking at 25,000 cases of the virus every single day.
"That takes us to about 175,000 cases in a week. That is a big difference to the 1360 today, which is already a cause for concern."
Hazzard said there has already been a "very substantial increase" in Covid cases, with infections now doubling "every two to three days".
"We are on alert and cautious. I think the community needs to be aware of that."
With the rising number of superspreader events linked to clubs, Hazzard urged people against attending these types of venues in the lead up to Christmas Day.
"You don't need right now to be jammed packed in an environment with no windows and nothing happening except music thumping. Maybe its not a good time [for that] if you want to have a Christmas Day," he said.
"My strong suggestion would be to take a little bit of time out and enjoy Christmas with less people and preferably outside, but certainly with windows open. Just be cautious."
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet urged the community to shift the focus away from Covid case numbers and focus on the ICU numbers.
There are currently 192 people with Covid in hospital, with 26 of those in the ICU.
"I know the media wants to lead on cases but please also report on the ICU numbers, they are just as important," Perrottet said.
"Yes, case numbers will increase, and they will increase tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.
"We need to learn to live alongside the virus and I want to instil confidence in our people that we can do that."
However, chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said it was still partly "a numbers game".
"We don't yet know the disease severity but as case numbers rise, even if you've got a very mild disease, it will still lead to hospitalisations.
"We've got to gather that information because that is a really key point that we need to understand: the clinical severity, what it looks like in elderly people and what it looks like in people with underlying health conditions."
She said it was likely the Omicron variant was driving the "rapid uptick" in cases.