Prof. Nachman Ash: We are at the start of a new COVID-19 wave

The Health Ministry is considering bringing back a mask mandate in enclosed spaces, but does not intend to reinstate any of the large-scale restrictions seen during previous waves.

 Health Minister Director-General Nachman Ash attends a press conference about the coronavirus, in Jerusalem on August 29, 2021.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Health Minister Director-General Nachman Ash attends a press conference about the coronavirus, in Jerusalem on August 29, 2021.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Israel is at the start of a new wave of COVID-19 infections, Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said Sunday morning.

The Health Ministry has identified a significant increase in infections, including more than 7,000 on Friday, serious cases and hospitalizations, he told 103 FM.

“I think we can start calling this a new wave,” Ash said, adding that the BA.5 subvariant is similar to the Omicron variant from which it developed in terms of severity and rate of infection.

"Even if this variant is highly contagious, there is no room for restrictions like shutting down or anything like that"

Prof. Nachman Ash

“In terms of preventative steps, Omicron has changed our approach, and even if this variant is highly contagious, there is no room for restrictions like shutting down or anything like that,” he said.

Israelis walk on the streets of Tel Aviv without wearing protective face masks, as Israel lifts the restrictions on wearing a mask outdoors.  (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)Israelis walk on the streets of Tel Aviv without wearing protective face masks, as Israel lifts the restrictions on wearing a mask outdoors. (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

On Saturday, 4,931 new COVID-19 cases were reported, the Health Ministry said Sunday. There was a 40% positive return rate for about 12,200 PCR and antigen tests that were taken, it said.

There were 158 serious cases, an increase of 125% compared with the previous week, including 42 patients in critical condition, of whom 37 were intubated and two were connected to ECMO machines.

The R-rate currently was at 1.3, a slight drop from earlier last week, when it was 1.51.

Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba on Sunday said it would be reopening its COVID-19 ward due to an increase in hospitalizations.

Will the Health Ministry be bringing back any COVID-19 restrictions?

At this early stage in the new wave, the Health Ministry does not intend to impose extensive restrictions on large gatherings, as it did in previous waves, Ash said. However, it was considering reimplementing a mask mandate in enclosed public spaces, he said.