Almost 50% of people infected with COVID-19 in Israel have the new BA.5 variant - the variant produces a relatively mild disease among young people, but is showing a rise in hospitalization, according to the head of the COVID-19 committee, Prof. Zarka.
BA.5 COVID -19 variant
"Almost 50% of people infected with COVID-19 have the new BA.5 variant now - the variant produces a relatively mild disease among young people, but we're seeing a rise in hospitalization. The important thing now is to maintain at-risk populations and populations aged 60 and over," Prof. Zarka said.
"With the Delta variant, the vaccine worked in 90% of cases and in Omicron 70%, in the new variant the vaccine is already less effective in resisting infection but does protect from severe illness," he explained.
Reinstating the obligation to wear masks in enclosed spaces is being considered and a new regulation that will allow a supervised home inspection to be done over the phone, among other regulations, will be brought to the committee's approval.
"We encourage the public to wear masks indoors. This is what I personally do and this is what I tell everyone around me, even outside of the hospital. We are considering returning regulations that require wearing masks indoors," Prof. Zarka stated.
"We are considering returning regulations that require wearing masks indoors."Prof. Zarka
The Health committee, headed by MK Idit Silman, is holding a discussion on the situation of COVID-19 infections and the treatment of post-COVID on Wednesday.
The committee is working to expand testing stations for next week. In addition, a supervised home inspection is being considered. "We have conducted talks with many companies on the subject and we will ask the committee to approve these regulations on Monday," Prof. Zarka added.
"These regulations will allow a supervised home inspection that will be done over the phone and so those who do said inspections will be regulated and registered in the Ministry of Health."
The BA.5 variant was first detected in South Africa in February of this year, although it is likely it did not actually originate there. Rather, due to Israel performing more genetic sequencing tests on COVID-19 samples than many other countries, this was just the first place that it was detected through genetic sequencing.
The BA.5 variant has been classified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization as well as by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, according to a report from Reuters last Wednesday.
A recent report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that the BA.5 variant now accounts for 7.6% of all new COVID-19 cases, with similar data coming from elsewhere including Germany, which has reported that an estimated 10% of all new cases are the BA.5 subvariant.
Data from some other countries are more concerning, however, with Portugal reporting that the BA.5 variant is responsible for 80% of all cases.
Similar to the original Omicron variant, the BA.5 subvariant is once again more transmissible than its predecessors but also causes milder illness than previous variants such as Delta.
Shira Silkoff contributed to this report.