Israel passes 2 million COVID-19 cases since pandemic began

Israel has not yet seen the peak of the Omicron variant wave, Health Ministry director-general Nachman Ash said.

Coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash visits COVID department, Ziv hospital, Tzfat. (photo credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)
Coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash visits COVID department, Ziv hospital, Tzfat.
(photo credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)

Israel has seen more than two million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, with another record-breaking day seeing 72,120 new cases on Tuesday, according to data published on Wednesday by the Health Ministry.

Wednesday’s figure set the record for the third day in a row after 66,652 new cases were registered on Monday and 62,156 on Sunday. Even as Tuesday’s case count set a record, Health Ministry director-general Prof. Nachman Ash said in an interview that in practice, the number of new infections could be far higher.

“Our estimate is that there are at least two or three times that,” said Ash. “It is not impossible that we stand at 200,000 verified cases a day.”

Ash said that Israel had not yet seen the peak of the Omicron wave.

“I believe that the peak will occur in another week or so,” he told FM103 Radio on Tuesday. “However, we are also seeing that the number of hospitalizations is still rising, but the rate of increase is slowing down.”

Cars line up at a drive-through COVID-19 testing center in Tel Aviv earlier this month. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)Cars line up at a drive-through COVID-19 testing center in Tel Aviv earlier this month. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Serious cases and deaths also continued to rise on Tuesday. An additional 35 such patients brought the number of serious cases to 533. There were also 35 patients who succumbed to the illness, bringing the death toll to 8,350.

There were a total of 393,785 active cases on Tuesday, and a further 218,874 people in quarantine. 

The procedures for quarantine were updated again on Wednesday. Those who test positive on a coronavirus test will be obligated to stay in isolation for five days after the positive results, on condition that the person receives negative antigen test results on the fourth and fifth days of quarantine, and the subject has been asymptomatic for the last 48 hours of quarantine.

If no tests or negative results were performed, the subject is required to stay in isolation for seven full days, and then needs to obtain a recovery certificate from their healthcare provider. The certificate will be sent automatically.

The virus continued to spread through the military and government. There were 14,048 IDF personnel who had the coronavirus as of Wednesday and were in mild condition. In addition, 9,732 personnel are currently in quarantine.

Religious Zionist MK Bezalel Smotrich, Yisrael Beytenu MK Yulia Malinovsky, Likud MK Gila Gamliel and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion all tested positive for COVID on Wednesday.

A total of 17.6 million vaccinations have been administered in Israel since the vaccination campaign began, with 4.4 million of those being third doses. There were 31,000 people receiving vaccinations on Tuesday, with almost half being fourth doses. Seven thousand of the recipients were minors.

An analysis on Wednesday evening of the infections of minors during the Omicron wave showed that if vaccinations were administered in the last three months, they provided a high level of protection against the variant.

The analysis by a team of researchers from the Health Ministry, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Sheba Medical Center showed it was important that the minors had received a recent vaccination, rather than just how many they had received. If a minor had received their second or third doses within the last three months, they were better protected than the unvaccinated or those with older immunizations.

Minors age five to 11 who were vaccinated in the last two months had two times more protection than the unvaccinated, and those ages 12 to 15 were four times better protected than the unvaccinated.

Late Tuesday night, the jump in cases led the US State Department to issue a travel warning to its citizens, advising US travelers not to travel to Israel, the West Bank or Gaza “due to COVID-19.”

Rossella Tercatin contributed to this report.