Dozens of bushfires spread as heat grips Australia's east

After two years of rains and floods, a return to warmer conditions has sparked the country's worst fires since the 2019/2020 'Black Summer' season.

BBC reports a blaze 250km north-west of Sydney triggered the region's first emergency fire warning in two years.

Firefighters reported battling 10-15m high flames.

Residents in affected areas across New South Wales state - Australia's most populous - have been urged to evacuate, and there are reports of damage to some properties.

Vanuatu man allegedly leaves boss’s car on train tracks after stealing it

The 23-year-old allegedly consumed a “large amount” of intoxicating liquor at his Merungle Hill home in the Riverina.

The unlicensed man then allegedly took his employer’s Hyundai Tucson for a spin about 10pm on Saturday and failed to navigate a T-intersection on Mckay Street and Regulator Road before driving onto a grassed area.

He cleared a gully, bouncing along the grass for about 60 metres, before hitting the bottom of the rock bed holding the railway tracks.

New South Wales records 1 million Covid-19 cases in just over two months

The unofficial number might have reached that milestone even sooner.

NSW Health yesterday recorded 15,683 new Covid cases, taking the state's tally to over 2m since the start of the pandemic.

It's an official number, but the actual number of cases is probably far higher.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on Wednesday - shortly before he contracted the virus - that cases were estimated to be under-reported by about 50 percent owing to people not being symptomatic or not reporting mild cases.

Concern in NSW at rise of Covid-19 Omicron sub-variant BA2

Health Minister Brad Hazzard today told a NSW budget estimates hearing the BA2 sub-variant, thought to be more infectious than the BA1 lineage, was becoming the dominant Omicron offshoot.

Hazzard said preliminary data from the University of NSW (UNSW) indicated cases could "more than double" within six weeks.

"It's very preliminary and we need to do a lot more digging ... but we are concerned at this point that BA2 is amongst us and overtaking BA1," he said.

There were 16,288 cases recorded in NSW today, the highest figure since 27 January.

Torrential rain to continue in Sydney after night of evacuations

Conditions were rapidly deteriorating by mid-afternoon on Wednesday as the effects of an east-coast low, which caused deadly floods in Queensland and northern NSW, hit the state's capital.

The Bureau of Meteorology's Dean Narramore said catchments already drenched by weeks of consistent rain were being bombarded with 50 to 100mm of fresh downpours, and it was expected to continue into the morning.

"A dangerous situation is evolving," he warned.

Victoria reports 39 Covid deaths, New South Wales records 35 deaths

It is the highest number of deaths reported in a daily update during the current wave, and the biggest daily increase since 59 deaths were reported on 4 September in 2020.

The daily death tolls include a number of recent deaths reported to health authorities and do not indicate that all the deaths occurred on the previous day.

There are now 988 people in hospital after contracting the virus, down from 1057 reported on Thursday.

Of those patients, 114 are in intensive care units and 40 are receiving ventilation.

NSW records 18,278 new Covid-19 cases and two deaths

Hospitalisations have risen to 1066, up from 901 in the previous reporting period, with 83 patients in intensive care.

There are five times as many people being treated for Covid-19 in the state's hospitals as there were in mid-December, although the number of people in intensive care has increased at a slower rate.

Premier Dominic Perrottet last week said the health system "remains strong" and the state was in a "very strong position" despite the fast-growing case numbers and increase in hospitalisations because of the Omicron variant outbreak.

Testing sites in Australia pushed to limit across multiple states

In Victoria, some close contacts who were initially advised to get a PCR test have received text messages from the Department of Health suggesting they get a rapid antigen test instead if they don't have any symptoms.

In New South Wales (NSW), Health Minister Brad Hazzard says wait times for Covid-19 test results have ballooned to 48 to 72 hours, with many people waiting even longer than that to get a result.

The NSW government yesterday urged people to only get tested if they have symptoms, are identified as close contacts, or as part of their travel requirements.

Record Covid-19 cases in NSW, maskless Santa in Qld

Authorities have reported 2566 new cases of Covid-19 in NSW, breaking another record.

It is the highest tally of daily coronavirus cases yet in Australia, increasing from the 2482 cases announced yesterday.

Cases were expected to jump with the ongoing relaxation of public health orders, while the Omicron variant has been blamed for the fast rise in infections.

There were no deaths from the virus in NSW on Saturday, but NSW Health said 227 people were in hospital in the state, including 28 people in intensive care wards.

NSW breaks daily Covid-19 record, 3 new Omicron cases in Queensland, 9 deaths in Victoria

Tasmania has also reported its first case, after the border to the rest of the country reopened yesterday.

Queensland has 22 new cases of Covid and 18 of those were detected outside quarantine, Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said.

The local cases spent up to a week in the community and were recorded in Brisbane's south, Brisbane's north, the Darling Downs, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, West Moreton and the Wide Bay.

D'Ath said most were acquired while in another state.