Israel's serious coronavirus cases continued to rise on Thursday, with the Health Ministry logging 283 people in a serious condition, more than double the equivalent figure seven days earlier.
Sixty-five of the seriously ill are on ventilators, after a 14 percent increase in serious cases in a single day. Last Thursday, 136 people in Israel were in a serious condition.
Among the unvaccinated, the rate of serious illness and hospitalization has been significantly higher. While just 6 percent of Israelis over 60 are unvaccinated, they account for 35 percent of serious cases per capita.
In the 60-69 age group, the unvaccinated are 15 times more likely to fall seriously ill than their inoculated counterparts, with this figure standing at seven times higher for people in their seventies, nine times higher for people in their eighties, and three times higher for the 90+ age bracket.
In Israel, almost 469,000 people have already received the fourth jab of the vaccine, which is available to over 60s and at-risk groups.
Despite the rise in serious cases, the strain on Israel's health system has actually eased, with hospitals running at 78.2 percent capacity, in comparison to over 90 percent capacity at the start of the week.
Also on Thursday, Israel's decision to cut isolation time for COVID carriers from 10 to seven days went into effect, in a bid to alleviate the social and economic impact of mass quarantines in the midst of the omicron wave.
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The Health Ministry recorded 48,095 cases on Thursday, another all-time high in Israel, even though the shift to home testing for most of the population is said to overlook the full scale of infection.
Shortening the isolation period was approved by the Health Ministry's director general on Tuesday.
However, the new rules stipulate that if a coronavirus carrier still has symptoms after a week in isolation, they will be required to isolate for three additional days.
Nachman Ash, director general of the Health Ministry, said that the ministry decided to shorten the isolation period because it discovered that the chances of infecting another person with COVID are significantly reduced after a week.
The American Centers for Disease Control decided two weeks ago to shorten the recommended isolation time in the United States to five days for Americans with asymptomatic cases of the virus or whose symptoms had elapsed 24 hours prior.
When such individuals leave quarantine, they are asked to wear masks in the presence of others to reduce the chance of infection.
The change was based on scientific sampling proving that COVID is most infectious in its early stages, usually a day or two before symptoms appear and up to three days thereafter.
The CDC also updated its quarantine directives for people exposed to confirmed carriers: Those who are not vaccinated or whose vaccination has expired are required to isolate for five days and observe strict facemask protocols for another five days.
The CDC said that if an exposed person cannot be isolated, they must wear a facemask any time they are around others for 10 days after exposure as well as get tested after five days.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Wilensky said: “The omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”