Health experts recommend people wear masks, celebrate Christmas outdoors amid another COVID-19 wave

New Zealand and Australian health experts are advising people to wear masks as both countries mark an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations ahead of the summer holidays. 

In a statement, Australia's New South Wales health ministry said there'd been a "moderate" rise in COVID-19 activity, including the number of people presenting to emergency departments. 

"Consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor areas and be kind to people who choose to wear a mask," NSW Health said on X. 

With large family gatherings also expected in the coming months, South Australia's top doctors have called for Christmas congregations to be held outside, 7 News reported.

"There's also lots of other viruses around as well - including the flu virus - and these viruses are dangerous as well," Australian Medical Association president John Williams told the broadcaster. 

South Australia's health ministry said the state's cases had risen to 2493 in the week to Friday compared with 1700 infections in the previous seven days.  

COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations have also been on the rise in New Zealand. There were 5872 reported cases of COVID-19 in the week to Monday and 212 people were in hospital. 

Epidemiologist Michael Baker, from the University of Otago, told RNZ's First Up getting a booster jab, wearing a mask in areas with bad ventilation and staying home when sick were the best protections. 

People should assume if they're in a confined area with "more than a handful of people, there's a reasonable chance that someone else will be infected with the virus", he said.