COVID-19 in Israel: Serious cases increase tenfold in span of a month, continue to rise

The recommendation comes after data showed that after the fourth dose, a person has 3-5 times protection against severe morbidity.

Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospitall in Jerusalem on December 27, 2021, as Jerusalem hospital reopens COVID ward.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospitall in Jerusalem on December 27, 2021, as Jerusalem hospital reopens COVID ward.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Israel reported 871 serious coronavirus cases on Monday, 10 times the amount of serious patients recorded a month ago, on December 25, when there were merely 88 patients in serious condition.

Coronavirus deaths too, continue to increase drastically, with 16 deaths newly reported on Monday, in comparison to December 24 when one coronavirus death was reported, and December 25 where none were reported.

A total of 83,613 coronavirus cases were recorded in Israel on Monday, new Health Ministry data showed on Tuesday morning, with serious cases continuing to rise, from 813 the previous day to 871 on Monday.

The number of intubated patients currently stands at 177, an increase of 14 from the previous day, and 19 are connected to ECMO machines.

However, the number of new cases stayed relatively stable, with around 83,600 new daily cases being reported for the second day in a row.

 A nurse prepares to administer a fourth booster Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to a person with an implanted heart. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) A nurse prepares to administer a fourth booster Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to a person with an implanted heart. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Out of 382,966 COVID-19 tests taken yesterday, both PCR and antigen, there was a positive return rate of 21.83%, and there are currently an estimated 580,400 active cases in Israel.

In the last week alone, over half a million new coronavirus cases were detected in Israel, bringing the total number of cases in Israel since March 2020 to 2,481,420.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Pandemic Response Team and the Advisory Committee on Vaccines recommended on Tuesday that a fourth coronavirus vaccine be administered to those under the age of 60 and over the age of 18 who have either recovered or received the third dose at least five months prior.

The recommendation was given in light of positive data which showed that after receiving the fourth dose, a person has between 3-5 times the amount of protection against severe morbidity, and double the protection against being infected in comparison to those who have received only three doses.

Initial findings released by the Health Ministry on Sunday indicated that the fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine protects those aged 60 and over more than three times as much against severe illness and twice as much against infection compared to those who received only three doses.

The comparison was done between about 400,000 people who received the fourth dose and about 600,000 people who received the third dose at least four months ago.

However, following the panel’s announcement regarding the fourth vaccine and the preliminary data released by the Health Ministry, Prof. Eyal Leshem, an infectious diseases specialist at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, released a statement reiterating that three doses of the vaccine have been proven to be sufficient in protecting against severe illness in young and healthy people.

The main demographic that will benefit from a fourth vaccine, he said, are “people who suffer from risk factors for severe diseases as is the case with many senior citizens and those who suffer from chronic illnesses.” In this case, the fourth vaccine may provide extra protection.

Lastly, he added, the use of multiple boosters in low-risk populations should be reconsidered given the global coronavirus vaccine shortage right now.

“The global community should now focus on prioritizing and delivering vaccines to vulnerable unvaccinated populations in 3rd world countries where vaccine coverage rates are still low,” he concluded.

THE RECOMMENDATION to provide fourth vaccines for those under 60 is still subject to the approval of Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash.

As of Tuesday morning, close to 700,000 people have received a fourth vaccine, and should the second booster shot be approved for people aged 18-60, the number will be expected to rise exponentially.

Former prime minister and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu accused the government of giving up and “abandoning the lives of Israeli citizens” in a fiery statement given from Jerusalem on Tuesday evening.

Criticizing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and alternate prime minister Yair Lapid, Netanyahu pointed to four sectors in which he said the government is failing: the critically ill, the hospitalized, children and the workers' livelihoods.Most critically, he said, the current plan to end quarantine for children which is set to come into effect this Thursday, is causing real danger.

“Despite evidence from the United States of serious illnesses and symptoms affecting children affected by Omicron, the government has decided that in two days’ time we will move on to mass infection of all Israeli children,” Netanyahu said. “No isolation, no enforcement, no orderly testing – everyone will be infected.”

Earlier in the day on Tuesday, Ynet reported that the Health Ministry is considering rolling back the plan to end isolation requirements for children, due to growing concerns that the Omicron variant can have serious and long-lasting effects on their health.

The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved – for the second time – the new coronavirus law after adding two amendments requested by MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionist Party) in exchange for his support of the law.The law calls for the restoration of parliamentary oversight regarding the government’s decisions on COVID-19 and places limits on its ability to introduce new pandemic-related restrictions.

Whereas the pandemic is classified as a state of emergency, the new law differentiates between an active coronavirus wave and the time in between waves, when cases are still being registered but at a much lower rate.The new law, which will come into effect on February 1 once it has been passed, will consider the interim period to be a “special health situation,” with only the waves being considered to be a state of emergency.

Rothman’s amendments ensure that from now on, when a state of emergency is declared due to COVID-19, a minimum of seven members of Knesset will sit on the coronavirus panel, including the prime minister, the health minister and the finance minister, instead of the five members that had been agreed upon in the earlier version of the law.

Secondly, participating in prayer has been added to the list of exemptions during any future lockdowns, meaning that even if there are limitations on how far a person can go from their house again in the future, people will be able to leave in order to attend prayer services.

“Over the last day I have been walking around very happy that we have arranged something historic here for everyone, Jews, Christians and Muslims,” said Rothman of the new prayer exemption clause.

The bill is expected to be brought before the Knesset for a vote by the end of the day.