Australia news live update: NSW reports 20,794 Covid cases and four deaths as hospitalisations rise to 1,204; Victoria records 8,577 cases and three deaths | Australia news

Good morning everyone. This is Cait Kelly and I will be taking you through the news this morning.

Here are the big stories so far:

The NSW health system is facing staff shortages, the peak medical association has warned as Covid-19 hospitalisations passed 1,000.

As of Sunday, 1,066 people were in hospital with the coronavirus including 83 in intensive care, 24 of who require ventilation.

Australian Medical Association vice president Chris Moy said the system was “struggling” with staff shortages as case numbers rise and health workers fall sick, test positive or are identified as close contacts.

“People look at the numbers and see the 1,066 in hospitals but the health system doesn’t just look after Covid and people are having critical surgery delayed,” he told AAP.

At the peak of the Delta outbreak on 21 September, there were 1,266 people hospitalised with Covid infections and 244 in intensive care.

A NSW Health spokesperson said as of 30 December, 2,510 healthcare workers were in isolation after being exposed to Covid-19.

Labor has promised to build an independent fleet to secure Australia’s access to fuel supplies and overseas trading routes.

The opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, says despite shipping accounting for almost all of Australia’s imported and exported goods, only 1% of seaborne trade is carried by Australian ships.

“The Morrison-Joyce government has put our national security and economic sovereignty at risk by standing idle as large multinationals dumped Australian flagged and crewed vessels so they could hire cheaper overseas crews,” he said.

“Our nation [relies] on foreign governments and companies for our essential imports … including fuel.”

Many people across the country are still waiting days for their PCR tests to come back and Sydney charity Reverend Bill Crews Foundation is asking the NSW government to make the tests free for rough sleepers.

We’ll bring you more on these stories and others as we go through the morning.

With that, let’s get cracking.

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