Zarka urges COVID-19 responsibility, caution in new wave of Omicron, flu

Before meeting family members at high risk, people should undergo an antigen test to make sure they themselves will not infect others.

 Test tubes labelled "COVID-19 Omicron variant test positive" are seen in this illustration picture taken January 15, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)
Test tubes labelled "COVID-19 Omicron variant test positive" are seen in this illustration picture taken January 15, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)

With a week of upcoming family gatherings for Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s the combination of a cold and rainy winter, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and the flu, the Health Ministry urges the public to take measures to protect themselves and those around them.

Prof. Salman Zarka, the coronavirus project manager, said in an online briefing for health reporters on Thursday that everyone at risk for complications should get the new Omicron vaccine at their health fund (appointments are necessary). Just 360,000 Israelis, most over the age of 65 or with chronic illness at any age 12 and over, have already gone for the shot, which protects against serious illness and hospitalization. People who were infected over three months before can also get vaccinated.

Before meeting family members at high risk, people should undergo an antigen test to make sure they themselves will not infect others, Zarka added. One should also wear a facemask at such fathers and in crowded places such as airline flights, trains, buses, at supermarkets, synagogues and other places that put people close together. 

“We have been dealing with COVID-19 for three years, and we know how to cope with it and live with it,” said Zarka, who is also director-general of Ziv Medical Center in Safed. “We don’t intend to limit celebrations all must show personal responsibility to protect ourself and others.” 

“We have been dealing with COVID-19 for three years, and we know how to cope with it and live with it.”

Prof. Salman Zarka

According to the latest Health Ministry statistics, there are 12,868 who have gone for testing and were found to be infected, but this is noit the real figure since few people are going for testing a health fund clinics. 

 The coronavirus Omicron variant (illustrative). (credit: PIXABAY) The coronavirus Omicron variant (illustrative). (credit: PIXABAY)

There are 134 in serious condition in hospitals – 30 in critical condition. Only three percent of those hospitalized with serious complications received the new Omicron shot, Zarka said. A total of 22 Israelis have died of COVID-19 complications this week, making the total since the beginning of the pandemic 11,905. 

Asked if the number of hospital patients rises significantly the medical centers will have to cut back on non-urgent cases, Zarka replies in the affirmative, adding that the health system as a whole “needs more resources, more hospital beds and more medical staffers. 

People should limit their intake of donuts

Changing the subject, with Hanukkah coming, Zarka said people should control themselves and limit their intake of donuts, a traditional dessert during the eight-day holiday that have been on sale at bakeries and supermarkets for almost two months. “They contain so many calories,” he explained. Former health minister and MK Yaacov Litzman also campaigned against the sugary, oily temptation, but he was ignored even by Health Ministry staffers who handed them out to fellow workers.