An epidemiologist has revealed the crucial COVID-19 figure New South Wales needs to reach to finally be “out of the woods”.

Speaking on Nine’s Today show, infectious disease expert and UNSW Professor Mary-Louise McLaws said the state doesn’t have to hit zero cases to show success in suppressing the virus.

She said NSW was doing very well in overcoming coronavirus but said she would like to see the state record fewer than four new daily infections for two weeks.

“They are potentially on track to zero (cases) but to be out of the woods you don’t necessarily have to have zero but you do have to have between zero and four cases every day for twice an average incubation period and that average incubation period is 14 days,” Prof McLaws said.

“If they get to four cases or less and it’s consistent over 14 days then NSW is … in a very safe place.”

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Prof McLaws said NSW has previously shown they can be successful in suppressing the virus but having cases introduced from Victoria caused an increase in infections.

“They had seeding from Victoria. Then they had a big challenge to get that under control because it was fast, it was small numbers but across a large geographic area which was a challenge to find every single contact, because the challenge is you have to find them before 72 hours,” she told the program.

“NSW has done an admirable job finding them and I believe that they will get to a very safe place very soon.”

NSW confirmed four new COVID-19 cases on Monday, with three detected in travellers already in hotel quarantine and one locally acquired and linked to a known cluster.

Though yesterday’s numbers were promising, NSW Health’s Dr Christine Selvey warned against complacency after a recent drop in testing rates.

“Testing numbers have dropped over the past two weeks, and this is a concern particularly in areas like southwestern, western and southeastern Sydney,” Dr Selvey said.

NSW Health said that while there had only been one new locally acquired case, the virus was “likely circulating among people in the community with mild symptoms”.

“As such, the risk of outbreaks and a resurgence of cases remains,” the organisation said in a statement.

“It’s vital that everyone who does have the virus is tested and diagnosed, in order to stop further spread to others.

“NSW Health is again urging anyone feeling unwell – even with the mildest of symptoms such as a runny nose or scratchy throat – to come forward and get tested, so cases in the community are identified as quickly as possible.”

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The promising direction of NSW’s virus fight comes as Premier Gladys Berejiklian pleaded with other state and territory leaders to shoulder more of the responsibility with hotel quarantine.

Speaking on Monday, Ms Berejiklian said her state was already at maximum capacity for overseas arrivals, saying it was time for other parts of the country to take their “fair share” of people needing hotel quarantine.

“NSW welcomes back around 2500 people every week, and we know the hotel quarantine system in NSW is managed well, but we’re doing so much more than all the other states combined,” she said, with 4500 people regularly in hotel quarantine at any one time.

“I just say to other states: I’m sure many of our Aussies overseas wouldn’t mind flying into Brisbane or Perth or even Adelaide, and then getting a domestic flight back to their homes.”


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