The sixth wave of COVID-19 is growing, with more than 350 Israelis in serious condition, some of whom need ventilation, and the end is not yet in sight, according to Health Ministry Coronavirus Commissioner Prof. Salman Zarka.
In an online briefing for health reporters, Zarka entreated the public to wear masks in indoor spaces such as on public transportation and other crowded locations, especially – but not only – if they were at high risk of being infected or infecting others who are at high risk of complications. If the public does not listen and implement this request, the government will soon consider making mask-wearing indoors mandatory, he said. The ministry has renewed its media information campaign on the importance of mask-wearing.
The BA.5 sub-variant of Omicron is more infectious than previous ones. Having been infected with previous variants and being vaccinated fully do not protect people from being infected with BA.5, said the professor.
Those over the age of 60 and others of any age who have weak immune systems or who suffer from chronic diseases are at highest risk from the latest sub-variant, continued Zarka.
“Within a short time, there has been a 330% rise in those hospitalized and a very large increase in those coming down with the sub-variant, even though the numbers of infected are just the tip of the iceberg, as many people are not getting tested,” he declared. During the past week, official figures show that nearly 200,000 Israelis have been tested, 71,860 have been infected, 357 are in serious condition in hospitals and 27 have died.
Official figures rise
“Geriatric institutions, hospitals and health funds that hospitalize their ill members at home are reporting significant increases in patient numbers,” Zarka said. “We feel we can continue to have a normal life, but we need people to wear masks, go to smaller events and to protect older people and others at high risk. We aren’t setting fines and requiring lockdowns, as they are not relevant in the current situation. We have to live with COVID-19, and it is possible. We can succeed.”
“Geriatric institutions, hospitals and health funds that hospitalize their ill members at home are reporting significant increases in patient numbers.”Prof. Salman Zarka
Some oral medications that offer additional protection to those at high risk who become infected have been in scarce supply in recent weeks. However, Zarka said that in the coming days and weeks, they will become available again in some of the health funds, but not in all branches.
When asked if Israel will offer the customized vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer to protect against BA.5, he said that these have not yet been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and are not available yet anywhere in the world. Only at the end of July will the FDA publicize data before approval. However, if or when they are approved and put on the market, Israel will offer them, he said.