Covid-19: Omicron may cause ‘dangerously high’ surge in cases in Israel in coming weeks

The head of the department of international relations at the Israeli Ministry of Health said the fifth wave is different in all aspects



by

Ashwani Kumar

Published: Mon 10 Jan 2022, 9:04 PM

The number of Covid-19 cases in Israel could rise dangerously high in the coming weeks, a top doctor told reporters.

Dr Asher Yeshaihu Salmon, head of the department of international relations at the Israeli Ministry of Health, said the fifth wave with the more infectious Omicron variant is different in all aspects.

“The doubling time is much higher, like, almost three times more. So, the number of new cases that we are expected to see, I would say in the coming 2 to 3 weeks, is dangerously high. Due to testing limitations, we would not have the full extent of the positive cases, but one could imagine that we would see as many as 20 per cent population developing Covid-19 in any sense from asymptomatic to a severe disease in the coming weeks,” he told reporters during a press conference held over Zoom.

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Israel on Monday reported a new daily record of 21,514 cases with 222 seriously ill.

Dr Salmon noted that though Omicron cases show milder symptoms than previous Covid-19 variants, the situation remained serious.

“Even if 1 in 5 need hospitalisations, hospitals are going to be overwhelmed with patients in a few weeks from now.”

Meanwhile, Israel is “closely following-up” on the developing situation in Europe and African countries.

Dr Salmon noted there’s a need for Israel to change its screening system as there are long queues of people taking the tests, and the result takes three to four days, which makes the process “ineffective”.

Israel has introduced massive home-based antigen testing for low-risk people. However, such tests, Dr Salmon said, are “much less accurate” than PCR screenings. Also, Merck antiviral medication has been offered to contain the spread of the virus and avoid hospitalisation.

Dr Salmon said the administering of booster dose showed “impressive” results last year. Now, the fourth dose of the vaccine is being given.

“It’s not feasible to have an injection more than once a year. I think it should be combined with the flu shot.”

Daniel Meron, Covid-19 project manager at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Israel would be sharing more than 1 million vaccines with other countries, mainly in Africa.

“This is a major operation for us. We are pleased to work together with the international community on this.”

A new programme afoot is to cover different countries and increase their capabilities to fight the pandemic. The foreign ministry has recently also distributed more than 80 packages to over 40 countries, including syringes, protective gear, and pharma.

Dr Salmon said that overseas travel would continue as usual in Israel, with entry restricted to fully vaccinated.

“In my own opinion, I do believe that we are now entering the last year of Covid-19 as a pandemic. It is not going to disappear totally but as a major pandemic. Everybody could travel now as long as they are fully vaccinated.”

He added that there is a “huge challenge” ahead, but community members must not give up.

“I think the pandemic will die. But still, we have to continue and stick to this struggle.”


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