COVID-19 in Israel: New variant is similar to Omicron, no rise in serious cases

“We have very few remaining restrictions, what is left is mostly masks," Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said.

 Family members visiting a family member at the Coronavirus ward of Ziv Medical Center in the northern Israeli city of Tzfat on February 15, 2022.  (photo credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)
Family members visiting a family member at the Coronavirus ward of Ziv Medical Center in the northern Israeli city of Tzfat on February 15, 2022.
(photo credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)

A total of 9,726 new daily coronavirus infections were recorded in Israel on Saturday, with some 41,000 PCR and antigen tests being taken, resulting in a 23.7% positive return rate.

There are currently 296 patients in serious condition, with 137 of them considered to be critical. 117 people within that number are intubated and 20 are connected to ECMO machines.

The R-rate currently stands at 1.35, a slight reduction compared to late last week when it was 1.4, but still considerably higher than it had been in recent weeks. The increase in infections that is reflected in the R-rate can also be seen in the number of total new infections over the last seven days – around 88,500 – which is 85% more compared to a week earlier.

Despite the considerable increase in daily infections, there has not been an increase in serious cases, which are still continuing to decline.

Speaking to Army Radio on Sunday morning, Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash said that since an increase in the number of serious patients has not been recorded, the new variant currently circulating is probably basically like Omicron, which caused far fewer serious infections.

   COVID-19 rapid antigen test (credit: PIXABAY) COVID-19 rapid antigen test (credit: PIXABAY)

Ash also reiterated the decision made by the government last week to refrain from removing any further coronavirus restrictions.

“We have very few remaining restrictions; what is left is mostly masks,” he told Army Radio. “I predict that if there is a further decrease in morbidity, we will also end the mask requirement – but right now, it is a little too early for that.”

About 4.4 million people have received the third vaccine, and of that number, 747,513 have also received an additional booster shot. The number of people choosing to receive the fourth vaccine is continuing to rise, according to a Sunday morning statement from Meuhedet Health Organization, which said that they have seen a 348% increase in demand.

“The public understands that the disease is still here and that the fourth vaccine can protect them from serious illness and mortality,” according to Meuhedet chief nursing officer Mali Kusha.

The healthcare organization is now “investing most of our efforts in publicity statements, proactive conversations, and continuing the nationwide deployment of vaccines,” she said: “all in order to meet the national target set for raising the vaccination rates and striving to save lives.”