The NSW government has defended its handling of the pandemic during the Omicron wave as its premier looks to revive the CBD to jump-start the state's economic engine.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Dr Kerry Chant along with other senior NSW Health staff, healthcare unions and academics fronted state parliament's public accountability committee on Friday.
In his evidence, Mr Hazzard brushed off queries from the committee, chaired by Greens MP David Shoebridge, that he was warned the December 15 scale back of restrictions would led to "death and despair" in aged care.
The changes in December included ending mandatory mask wearing and eased density limits in venues, the inquiry was told.
Mr Hazzard said while there were "constant" discussions with aged care providers, "there was nothing on that specific decision", and he rejected claims of a "massive breakdown in communication" with the sector.
"We have managed this issue to the very best of our ability ... NSW and Victoria have done an extraordinary job".
The minister also denied suggestions that, regarding Omicron, the government had "let it rip" over summer against health advice, insisting at the inquiry that the community knew it was trying its best.
"Nothing has been done lightly, it's been done with great gravity," Hazzard noted labelling the state's death rate, currently about 1600, as "infinitesimally small" compared to other countries.
Aged Care and Community Services chief executive Paul Sadler accused the government of knowing the aged sector was unprepared for the Omicron outbreak, but went head with relaxing COVID-19 restrictions in December anyway.
It was the first hearing since September as the government loosened lockdown rules.
The inquiry coincided with the third Sydney CBD Summit on Friday where Premier Dominic Perrottet resisted pressure to promise his government would ease the few remaining COVID-19 restrictions by the end of the month.
"They were topics on the agenda, but ultimately ... that's a matter for a cabinet," he told reporters.
"This is about ensuring that when we do open up ... we come back strongly."
The rules, which include mandatory masks in office spaces, density limits on hospitality and a recommendation people work from home, have been extended until at least February 27.
Among the ideas floated were measures to cut red tape and discount public transport fares.
"We've considered providing discounted transport in the past, arising out of these summits, (but) I'm getting convinced today that this could be a way to go," he said.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the hospitality industry needed incredibly practical measures - such as dining incentives and extended trading hours - to help it bounce back.
Mr Perrottet said he was particularly keen to see life return to the city at weekends.
"There shouldn't be tumbleweeds rolling down Martin Place on the weekend," he said.
But Opposition Leader Chris Minns slammed the geographical short-sightedness of the proposed revitalisation project.
"We want to see the economy return all over NSW," he said.
"I'm a little concerned that the focus seems to be on the square mile of the CBD. We need to lift up the suburbs, western Sydney and the regions as well."
NSW on Friday reported 19 deaths and 8950 new cases, with 1716 people in hospital - 79 fewer than the previous day.
Australian Associated Press
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