COVID in Israel: Serious Cases Double in a Week as Country Braces for Omicron Peak

Israel's decision to exempt schoolchildren from COVID quarantine will go into effect on the day the country is expected to hit the omicron wave's peak

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Israel reported around 70,000 new COVID cases each day this week.
Israel reported around 70,000 new COVID cases each day this week.Credit: Emil Salman

Israel will likely hit the peak of the current omicron wave surging across the country by the end of next week, a top health expert predicted Friday, forecasting that as many as 1,500 COVID patients could be in serious condition.

Meanwhile, the number of serious patients nearly doubled, jumping from 320 last week to 638 on Friday.

A full 275 of those in serious condition are not fully vaccinated, 199 of which have not received a single dose.

Over 30 percent of the Israeli population is not fully vaccinated, while 29.3 percent of the population is not vaccinated at all.

Prof. Dror Mevorach, head of the COVID-19 department at Hadassah University Hospital, cautioned that Israel’s decision to exempt schoolchildren exposed to a COVID carrier from quarantine will coincide with the record-shattering omicron wave’s peak. The new regulation will go into effect next Thursday.

“It would have made more sense to do it a week or two later, when we reduce the number of infections,” he said.

The number of new COVID cases reported each day this week hovered around 70,000, a figure nearly seven times higher than seen in previous waves.

Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash estimated on Wednesday that the number of new cases could actually be twice or three times higher than the official data.

Despite the unprecedented numbers, serious COVID cases have not yet reached the heights seen in past waves, reflecting expert consensus that the highly-contagious omicron variant is much less likely to result in serious illness.

As Israel's existing quarantine policy has come under fire from health experts for sending droves of asymptomatic Israelis into quarantine, the government has pivoted away from trying to halt the variant's spread towards an emphasis on symptomatic patients and at-risk populations.

With record numbers of students in quarantine, alongside hospitals nearing capacity over shortages due to medical workers entering isolation, Israel decided Thursday to exempt exposed schoolchildren from quarantine.

On Wednesday, the decision to shorten the isolation period for COVID carriers and unvaccinated people who were in contact with them from seven to five days came into effect.  

So far, 58,661 people have received a fourth vaccine shot, and more than 4.4 million have received a third dose. 62.8 percent of Israelis are considered fully vaccinated as of Friday.

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