Israel's Omicron Wave Plateaus, Serious Cases Keep Rising

Israel buys 5 million Novavax COVID vaccines ■ Top health official mulls scrapping proof of vaccination or recovery for venue entry, as daily COVID cases and rate of infection begin to tail off

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Haaretz
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Medical staff in a COVID ward at Shamir Medical Center
Medical staff in a COVID ward at Shamir Medical CenterCredit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
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Haaretz

The omicron wave in Israel is continuing to drive an increase in serious illness among carriers, but is also showing early signs of relenting, with daily coronavirus infections and the rate of infection shrinking in the last week. 

There are currently 946 serious cases across the country, according to Health Ministry data, with 291 patients in a critical condition. On Wednesday, 960 serious cases were recorded, the highest in almost a year. 

However, the number of daily COVID cases is appearing to taper off, with the Health Ministry recording a consistent decline for four consecutive days.

On Sunday, over 85,107 people in Israel tested positive for coronavirus, and this figure fell to 57,563 on Thursday, which was also the lowest daily increase in two weeks. 

The general infection rates have been showing a slight decline. The R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – has gone down to 1.05. This figure is calculated according to data from the previous 10 days. Any R number over 1 means the pandemic is spreading. 

Also on Friday, Israel also signed an agreement to purchase 5 million vaccines from Novavax, a protein-based alternative which is effective against several variants, including omicron.

The inoculation has received approval by European Medicines Agency, emergency approval from the U.K., and is being examined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The vaccines are due to arrive in Israel in the coming months, pending regulatory approval. Financial details of the deal, which includes the option for an additional 5 million doses, were not disclosed.

The Health Ministry's director-general, Prof. Nachman Ash, also said on Thursday that health professionals in his office are weighing up scrapping the so-called green passport system, which obliges people to provide proof of vaccination or recovery in order to enter certain venues. 

Prof. Ash also commented on the government's recent decision to exempt schoolchildren from quarantine if they are exposed to a COVID carrier, which went into effect on Thursday. “We are sure that returning to a continues school routine will be good for the children who were suffering from the quarantines.” Ash said.

“Every change is accompanied by concerns because we cannot predict the results,” he said, adding that the changes that health professionals requested “will help us enforce the new plan more rigorously.” 

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