A WELCOME dip in COVID case numbers has finally extended to the Hunter, with the region's fresh case count under 50 for the first time in over a week.
Hunter New England Health added 35 cases to its tally on Tuesday, taking the region's full case count to 1039.
Dr David Durrheim described Tuesday's numbers as "encouraging", but pointed to vaccination rates as an equally promising development.
"This is really critical as the state is going to be opening up in just two weeks' time," he said.
While many areas had begun to race towards full vaccination, Dr Durrheim said there were exceptions.
"There are a few laggards though," he said..
"We see that Newcastle in the younger people is lagging behind ... and in Muswellbrook we've seen a slow increase now that the vaccine is available."
The fresh cases were the third highest new additions, falling behind the new figures from southwest and western Sydney's health districts.
There are 28 active cases in Hunter hospitals, with two in intensive care.
Of the new cases 20 were infectious in the community.
Lake Macquarie had the highest proportion of fresh cases with 13.
Bar Beach had two of Newcastle's four cases.
The others fell within Mayfield and Merewether.
Wyee had three, Charlestown and Speers Point both had two while others were detected in Dora Creek, Edgeworth, Gateshead, Warners Bay and Windale.
Raymond Terrace recorded Port Stephens' only case.
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Cessnock had four in Abermain and one from Bellbird, while Maitland had a pair in Rutherford as well as cases at Gillieston Heights and Metford.
Midcoast Council had six - three in Taree, two in Wingham and one in Glenthorne.
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