Recorded COVID cases rose by 25 per cent in a fortnight in Hunter New England but hospitalisations across the state were stable, NSW Health data shows. The Hunter New England district recorded 412 COVID cases in the fortnight ending November 18, the latest NSW Respiratory Surveillance Report said. The virus data comes from people with respiratory illnesses who are unwell enough to seek medical attention and be given a PCR test. Newcastle respiratory specialist Peter Wark said "we are seeing a bit of a rise across the board with COVID-19". ACM reported early this month that a new COVID wave had hit the district with 39 people in hospital and nine aged-care home outbreaks. The latest surveillance report showed that hospital presentations for COVID had fallen by a few per cent in a week across NSW, while admissions were stable. "We're seeing a number of Omicron strains circulating. None of that is too surprising. It hasn't led to a marked increase in hospitalisations. They've been fairly stable across the board," Professor Wark said. "There's a small number of people still coming into hospital, particularly those with chronic conditions, older individuals and the immunosuppressed." It's been reported that this latest wave could peak at Christmas for the third year in a row. COVID vaccine rates in the Hunter have plummeted to 14 per cent of people aged 18 and over, federal health data shows. ATAGI now recommends boosters mainly for older people and those with medical comorbidities. The federal government has accepted the latest advice from ATAGI [Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation] on the use of the new COVID XBB 1.5 vaccine. "These new vaccines will help protect Australians against current strains of COVID-19," federal Health Minister Mark Butler said. "Vaccination reduces the risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19, particularly for older adults and those who are immunocompromised." It was reported on Friday that the World Health Organisation asked China for more information on a mystery outbreak of pneumonia clusters among children in China. "We've noticed that following COVID-19, there have been reports of increased infections across the world," Professor Wark said. "There are probably many reasons for that, but it's partly due to the lockdowns and the bounce-back effect as people have gone out and about. Whether this is something we're seeing in China because they had a much later exposure to a lot of COVID when they opened up."