COVID in Israel: Infection on the Rise After Hanukkah Festivities

Israel sees the highest number of new COVID cases since October

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A line for coronavirus tests at the entrance to a children's musical show for Hanukkah, last week.
A line for coronavirus tests at the entrance to a children's musical show for Hanukkah, last week.Credit: Moti Milrod
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Israel has recorded a rise in coronavirus infection in the week following Hanukkah festivities, Health Ministry data showed Wednesday.

The COVID infection rate known as the R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – has risen, with each carrier infecting an average of 1.07 people. That number is calculated from data from 10 days prior, so it does not reflect the jump in infection after the holiday.  

In addition, Tuesday saw the highest number of new COVID cases since October, with 786 people testing positive.

There are currently 102 COVID patients in serious condition in Israel, of those 59 percent are on ventilators. Eighty-one of those patients are not vaccinated; nine have received their doses at least six months ago, and eight are fully vaccinated. Eight people have died of the illness in the past seven days, a 55.6 percent decrease from the previous week.

Over the past month, 36 percent of COVID infections have been children aged 0 to 9. Children under 5 cannot yet be vaccinated. Another 28 percent are children aged 10 through 19 who are only partially vaccinated.  

Also on Tuesday, Israel's panel on vaccination policy decided to postpone a decision to inoculate children ages 5-11 who have recovered from the coronavirus, instead waiting for more data on the omicron variant.

The panel, however, said that parents are permitted to vaccinate their children if three months have elapsed since their recovery, in line with earlier comments from the Health Ministry. 

The discussions were spurred by a need to bolster the country's overall immunity amid the growing threat of the new omicron variant that has been detected in Israel two weeks ago.  

The World Health Organization, in its weekly epidemiological report, said more data was needed to assess the severity of disease caused by the omicron variant and whether its mutations may reduce protection from vaccine-derived immunity.

"Even if the severity is equal or potentially even lower than for delta variant, it is expected that hospitalizations will increase if more people become infected and that there will be a time lag between an increase in the incidence of cases and an increase in the incidence of deaths," it said. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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