COVID-19 patients from central Israel are being diverted to hospitals in Jerusalem due to the growing number of patients in coronavirus wards.
Nearly 800 coronavirus patients are hospitalized across Israel as of Saturday, including 450 patients in serious condition and 74 on ventilators.
Since Friday, eight patients were sent from hospitals in the center of Israel to medical centers in Jerusalem. Currently, small hospitals in central Israel – such as Laniado Hospital in Netanya and Mayanei HaYeshua Medical Center in Bnei Bark – are facing heavy burdens. There are about 1,000 beds set aside for coronavirus patients throughout Israel, some of which are in designated wards and the others are in internal medicine departments.
In an attempt to cope with the rising infection rate, the Health Ministry approved on Friday giving a third dose of the COVID vaccine to people aged 50 and up, as well as medical staff aged 30 and up who work with coronavirus patients. It also approved giving the booster shot to prisoners aged 40 and up, if at least five months have passed since their second dose.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Friday that he instructed the directors of Israel's four health maintenance organizations to double its vaccination rate in the coming week, and to offer inoculations around the clock, seven days a week. The vaccination campaign will be aided by military medics, as per an agreement with Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
On Saturday, Bennett instructed the Health Ministry to open nighttime vaccination clinics in ten cities throughout the country, following the high demand in Tel Aviv. The stations will remain open from Sunday through Tuesday night.
According to Health Ministry figures, the number of serious COVID cases rose on Wednesday to 400, the highest figure since March. About 150 of these patients are not fully vaccinated.
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The government is forecasting that the number of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus will double every 10 days, reaching 4,800 people – half of them with serious cases – by September 10. Israel hit its highest number of serious cases in January, with 1,200 patients.
Due to this projection, Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz agreed on Tuesday to add new health care positions each time the number of hospitalized patients doubles.
Israel’s hospitals learned on Tuesday that they would receive funding to take on an additional 600 doctors and 1,500 nurses if the government’s forecasts are correct and the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients reaches 4,800 in the next month, with half of them being serious cases.
But many health care leaders warned that the extra staff won’t have a profound impact in the near future, as it will take time for them to be trained in treating COVID-19 patients in the midst of a crisis. Their contribution will be felt only weeks, if not months, after they are hired.
Moreover, Israel's Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said he had recommended during a coronavirus cabinet meeting that the school year will be postponed by one month, to October 1.
Bar-Lev, who spoke in a public event in Tel Aviv, said that "there is no logic" in starting the school year as planned due because of the surging number of patients and the small amount of school days in September.