Israel Could See 20,000 Daily Cases amidst Outbreak

On Wednesday, Salman Zarka, the official given the responsibility of seeing Israel’s response to the pandemic, said that there were likely about 15,000 to 20,000 new coronavirus cases daily. Meanwhile, health experts are weighing the option of mandating masks indoors once more in order to control the renewed outbreak.

The new BA.5 variant

On June 6th, the rolling average of cases confirmed on a daily basis was 2,400, but the number jumped to 7,661 this Tuesday. Salman Zarka spoke at the Knesset Health Committee and said that the new sub-variant of the Omicron, which has been named BA.5 was responsible for the outbreak. The variant has been gaining traction and has proven to show more resistance to COVID-19 vaccines, as opposed to the previous strains.

He disclosed that almost 50% of the coronavirus patients in Israel had the BA.5 variant. He stated that it only caused mild illness amongst the younger population, but hospitalizations had already begun to increase. He went on to say that the BA.5 variant was on its way to becoming the dominant variant, replacing Omicron and would continue to spread.

Zarka said that if the COVID vaccines were effective against the Delta variant by 90% and if the Omicron variant was contracted by at least 30% of those vaccinated, then it would mean that the vaccine is less effective against the BA.5 variant. However, he said that it was still effective in preventing serious illness. Therefore, he urged people to continue wearing face masks, which is only mandatory in medical facilities for now. He added that they were thinking about mandating face masks indoors once more, but had to consider the timing.

The indoor mask requirement had been lifted in April due to a sharp fall in infection numbers. Outdoor masks had not been required since last year in April.

The measures and numbers

According to Salman Zarka, patients of COVID-19 may soon be identified in Israel based primarily on a home test. But, there will be certain conditions applicable and said that the Health Ministry was working on expanding the testing facilities. He said that the committee would be asked to approve regulations next Monday that would help people in taking a test at home via telephone, so they can be recorded in the system.

The number of active cases in the country have reached 34,275 and the Health Ministry disclosed that 119 serious cases were identified. The number of serious cases six days ago had been 74. The death toll in Israel has also gone up in the past week by 6, as it reached 10,882. While the R number, or the transmission number, has dropped a little to 1.46, it still remains significantly high.

The number is above 1, which shows that the virus is spreading. It had stayed below 1 for almost two months, but had begun to rise in mid-May. The positivity rate in Israel on Tuesday was 34.55%, with the total number of tests conducted on the day about 22,306.

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