NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard gives stark warning to residents as cases urge

The New South Wales Health Minister has given a stark warning to the public - warning everyone is "probably going to get Omicron at some stage".

Health Minister Brad Hazzard has urged residents to get the booster shot as the new variant takes a foothold in Australia.

"Bottom line here is that we would expect that pretty well everybody in New South Wales at some point will get Omicron," Hazzard said.

"We're all going to get Omicron, and if we're all going to get Omicron, the best way to face it is when we have full vaccination including our booster.

"The challenge for us in the state is to make sure that our health system can cope with that oncoming virus that is so transmissible - it's extremely transmissible."

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet backed up the Health Minister's message and urged people to exercise "personal responsibility", such as social distancing when attending New Year's celebrations.

"Everybody in Australia will get Omicron, and what we're seeing at the moment is far milder symptoms," he said.

The Premier is urging people against calling an ambulance or going to hospital if their symptoms were not severe as about 2000 hospital staff are currently isolating.

"That's putting enormous pressure on other staff in our hospitals."

Cases in New South Wales have surged over the past fortnight. On December 13, the state recorded 536 community cases while on Monday it recorded 11 times as many cases. 

New South Wales recorded 6324 new cases on Monday, while the deaths of three more people with COVID-19 were also reported. 

Among the three deaths was a man in his 80s from western Sydney who became the first person to die in New South Wales from the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

NSW Health also reported 521 people in hospital with the virus, which is up from 458 from Sunday, with 55 of those in intensive care. 

Perrottet is asking residents who are not unwell or legally required to get a PCR test to get a rapid antigen test instead as testing clinics are overwhelmed with demand. 

"I know there are long queues right across our state, so if you do not feel unwell there is no need to receive a PCR test," Perrottet said during a press conference on Sunday.

"You are taking a spot in the queue from somebody who needs a test. We just don't believe that the requirement of a PCR test for somebody who is not unwell is actually supportive of that view.

"It is actually less safe for there to be longer queues because the turnaround time is longer, and as a result we will have more people in the community with COVID.

"If you're going into a high-risk setting, if you're visiting an elderly person, if you're going into one of those areas where you might be thinking, 'now I'll go and get a PCR test', no, have these rapid antigen tests at home, and as we move through 2022, we believe this will become the new norm."