NSW virus toll hits 22 amid Easter warning

NSW residents have been urged to stay home and adhere to the restrictions over the Easter weekend.
NSW residents have been urged to stay home and adhere to the restrictions over the Easter weekend.

A 69-year-old has become the 22nd person to die of the novel coronavirus in NSW as residents are reminded to halt all-but-essential travel over the Easter break.

The man died in John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle after catching the virus locally, possibly during travel to Queensland, NSW Health said on Friday.

"These are not just numbers, these are people whose families will be missing them today," Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters in Sydney.

Forty-nine new cases were recorded in the 24 hours to Thursday evening, taking the NSW total to 2822.

Of those, 211 are in hospital including 29 patients in intensive care. Some 23 are being ventilated and another is having their blood mechanically oxygenated via the ECMO system.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said testing clinics remain open over the Easter break, with the state now processing more than 4000 tests a day.

St Vincent's Hospital has begun using new rapid tests with a one-hour turnaround, while Broken Hill is setting up its systems to follow suit in the coming days.

Mr Hazzard urged people to "please exercise" to ensure their immune system remains strong.

But otherwise, authorities want the community adhering to the restrictions in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.

"Right around the state, police are reporting there's a good deal of consideration and compliance with those requests around not travelling and social distancing," NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys told reporters on Friday.

"The movement of people with caravans and holidaymakers with surfboards and camping gear - it is almost non-existent."

Yet, nearly 50 people copped $1000 on-the-spot fines in the past 24 hours for breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

Fines of $5000 are also on offer to anyone who spits or coughs on an emergency services worker or staff in hospitals and pharmacies.

Health Services Union state secretary Gerard Hayes welcomed the fines.

"If anybody out there thinks it's funny, thinks it's some kind of right of passage, to either spit at a health worker or cough on them to make them feel vulnerable, you're a coward," he told reporters.

"That's all you are. This society, NSW, won't tolerate it."

Healthcare workers will now receive free parking at public hospital car parks as they toil around the clock.

"Our healthcare workers are on the frontline of our battle with COVID-19 and we need to do whatever we can to support them during this difficult time," Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a statement.

All Easter masses and other religious services can only be online.

That left the Anglican church broadcasting its major Good Friday service on YouTube, complete with choir boys social-distancing in a closed-door St Andrew's Cathedral.

Friday is the sixth successive day NSW has recorded fewer than 100 cases. The state's highest daily count was 212 on March 27.

Locally acquired cases in NSW have risen 268 in the past week, making up about 60 per cent of new infections.

So far 53 people have died from COVID-19 across Australia.

Australian Associated Press