Healthcare workers administer COVID-19 tests at St Vincent's Hospital drive-through testing clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney

Australia’s most populous state reports first omicron death

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia’s New South Wales state reported more than 6,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and confirmed its first death from the omicron variant.

The fatal case was identified as a man in his 80s who was infected at an aged care facility in western Sydney. He was fully vaccinated but had underlying health conditions.

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New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, reported 6,324 new infections Monday, a fall of 70 from the record number a day before. There were 524 people in hospitals, including 55 in intensive care.

New measures came into force in New South Wales on Monday, including limits of one person per 2 square meters (22 square feet) in bars and restaurants and required “check-ins” with QR codes in hospitality venues.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the state government is considering lifting the requirement for health workers to isolate after being exposed to COVID-19 because of staff shortages.

Victoria state reported 1,999 new cases on Monday with three deaths.

State COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar said Victoria has moved to random genome testing for the omicron variant to better understand its spread.

Meanwhile, a Sydney laboratory which on Sunday said 400 people who received negative reports from COVID-19 tests had in fact tested positive now says almost 1,000 others also received premature negative results.

SydPath, based at Sydney’s St. Vincent Hospital, said 995 people who were tested on Dec. 23 and 24 had prematurely received negative results.

“In fact their true result had not yet been determined,” the pathology service said in a statement Monday. It said all the affected people have been told they will receive their accurate test results by Monday night.

“We are sincerely sorry for this error and acknowledge the significant impact it has had on those involved,“ it said.

The laboratory blamed the false negatives on human error, saying the testing system has been under severe strain.

“SydPath have put procedures in place to ensure this cannot happen again,” it said.