COVID-related Deaths in Israel Rise to 40 a Day, Serious Cases Overtake Delta Wave Peak

A report by Israel's national coronavirus information center states COVID wards in hospitals across the country have reached 'all-time high' capacity

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
Medical staffer at a COVID ward in a Jerusalem hospital on Thursday
Medical staffer at a COVID ward in a Jerusalem hospital on ThursdayCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

The rapid spread of the omicron variant in Israel has led to a spike in COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations.

The average number of people dying from coronavirus complications has witnessed a steep hike over the past days, hitting 40 deaths a day, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

At the height of the third COVID wave in Israel a year ago, daily deaths peaked at about 60, and remained under 30 during the delta wave late last year.

Official figures released by the Health Ministry are lower, but officials explain that this is due to a time lag in verifying whether the cause of death is indeed COVID-19.

A ministry official said that in the vast majority of cases over the past days, the virus was indeed the main cause of death, but in a relatively small number of cases patients who were infected with COVID died of other conditions.

The number of seriously ill COVID patients is currently at 856, exceeding the peak of 737 during September's delta wave. In total, 2,244 people are in hospital due to COVID.

Out of the 250 critical cases in the last week, around 80 percent are aged 60 and over, with the 40-59 age group making up a further 13 percent, a Tuesday report by Israel's national coronavirus information center said.

On the subject of hospital capacity, the report added that “the overall number of patients in COVID wards has reached an all-time high since the beginning of the pandemic,” and that this is “without taking into consideration the absence of staff due to illness, that in some cases has reached about 9 percent."

Over one in 20 in Israel – about 550,000 people – are infected with coronavirus, including 83,653 who caught the virus on Monday alone, according to Health Ministry figures. However, ministry officials believe the real number could be three times higher, especially given the milder symptoms that are typical of omicron infections and the shift to home testing.

Still, the ratio of hospitalizations and deaths to infections remains far lower than waves from previous variants.

Amid the upsurge, health experts predicted on Monday that the omicron wave will soon subside, but that the worst is yet to come.

Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute estimated that Israel may reach 800 to 1,000 seriously ill patients in the hospitals in the coming days. The coronavirus monitoring team at Hebrew University gave a similar figure.

The omicron variant, which is less lethal than its predecessors, has raised hopes that it would spell the end of the coronavirus pandemic by helping the population reach herd immunity along with the vaccine.

The director of World Health Organization in Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, said that such a scenario was “plausible,” but he and Israeli medical experts also cautioned that mass infection will not end the pandemic.

An expert panel advising the Health Ministry recommended on Tuesday that Israel expands its rollout of the second booster shot to Israelis over the age of 18. Over 604,000 people in Israel have taken the fourth jab, which is currently available to at-risk groups and over 60s.

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