COVID czar Professor Salman Zarka said that Israel has entered "a sixth wave" of coronavirus on Wednesday, after the country recorded its highest number of daily cases and serious cases since April, but said that no new restrictions are being weighed at this stage.
On Tuesday, Israel's Health Ministry logged 10,785 new cases, a slight drop from the previous day, but still the highest figure in nine weeks.
This takes the total number of infections nationwide to 52,096, an increase of 45.7 percent over the past week.
Similarly, 198 people were in a serious condition on Tuesday, also the highest figure in almost two months.
The infection rate, representing the average number of people each carrier infects, fell slightly to 1.28.
“We are in another wave, the sixth wave of the pandemic, which is characterized mostly by the infection of at-risk groups. We attribute the rise in infection to the BA.5 variant of the omicron family, which is found already in over 50 percent of the [genetic] sequencing test results,” the COVID czar said in the Health Ministry said in a briefing on Wednesday.
"The presence of the BA.5 variant, similar to the BA.4 variant too, is common now in many countries in Europe, and we are seeing a rise in infection in countries such as Germany, Britain, Sweden, Spain and Portugal,” Prof. Salman Zarka added, though cautiously predicted the wave is expected to be smaller than the previous omicron wave.
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At this stage, no restrictions on the public are being considered – but Zarka urged the public to be responsible and wear masks in closed spaces, including on public transportation and flights. However, if the level of seriousness of illness begins to rise, “it is possible that we will have to not only recommend wearing masks in closed spaced, but require it in a regulation. But I hope we won't need to do so,” said Zarka.
As of last week, the BA.5 variant accounted for 70 percent of infections in Israel, and the BA2.12.1 strain constituted up to 12 percent of infections. As far as is known, these two variants are 15 to 25 percent more contagious than the BA.2 variant.