Top health official says Israel has ‘no control’ over Omicron as cases keep surging

A senior health ministry official said on Monday that Israel had “no control” over the Omicron-fueled coronavirus outbreak sweeping the country, as infections continued to rise.

“We are trying as much as possible to reduce infections and decrease the strength of this wave, but it will be a high wave,” Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Department of Health, told the Thirteenth channel.

Alroy-Preis said the ministry was focusing on preventing severe cases of COVID-19, not just reducing infection rates.

She denied reports that health officials were moving towards a policy allowing Omicron to spread in the hope that the most contagious, but less virulent strain of coronavirus would quickly burn the population and lead to a collective immunity.

“We don’t know if there will be a wave that will break [us all] and everything will be fine afterwards, and then there will be some kind of immunity, ”she said.

Pressed on this point, Alroy-Preis noted that the virus has continued to mutate since its first appearance in China at the end of 2019.

“We see that Omicron infects people who are recovering [from previous variants], “she said.” How can I be sure that the next variant will not infect people who have caught Omicron? I cannot give any weight to these predictions [of herd immunity]. “

She said she was unsure of the widely publicized predictions in recent days that millions of Israelis will contract Omicron.

Health workers perform rapid antigen tests on Israelis at a Magen David Adom testing center in Jerusalem, January 3, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi / Flash90)

Alroy-Preis also expressed concerns about the potential for serious infections, despite growing signs that Omicron is causing less severe disease than other strains of COVID-19, noting that older Israelis may be at greater risk than their European counterparts who have more recently received booster injections.

“We have an at-risk population here that received a recall five or six months ago, and so we are checking the numbers in Israel,” she said.

“We don’t have a red line to go through a lockdown, but just look at where we were in previous waves and understand how the [healthcare] system was with 1,200 serious patients, ”she added, referring to morbidity figures recorded last January during Israel’s worst COVID-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, Channel 13 again quoted unnamed senior Health Department officials as saying that millions of people will get Omicron. Officials also said the restrictions would not help cope with the outbreak.

Earlier Monday, Israel’s coronavirus czar Salman Zarka also said that any measure other than sweeping measures would be ineffective in bringing down cases.

“In the situation we find ourselves in, slight restrictions will not help. We can move towards very significant restrictions like the first lockdown, because other restrictions will not lower infections. So we are not recommending any restrictions at this time just to say that we have asked for them, ”Zarka said during a press briefing.

He also dismissed speculation that the government was aiming for a policy of collective immunity, saying hopes that Omicron could quickly unchecked among the population without overwhelming the hospital system were scientifically invalid.

People, many of whom wear face masks, walk down Jaffa Street in Jerusalem on January 2, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi / Flash90)

Meanwhile, updated health ministry statistics released Monday night showed 7,569 new infections have been confirmed since midnight, exceeding the 6,576 cases recorded throughout Sunday.

Active cases rose to 42,364, including 210 people hospitalized for complications from COVID-19. Of these, 108 were in serious condition.

The rate of positive tests also continued to rise, with nearly 5.6% of the more than 225,000 tests performed on Monday coming back positive.

The national death toll stood at 8,247.

According to the Ministry of Health, 6,583,772 people received at least one dose of vaccine, 5,933,665 received two injections and 4,271,390 received a third dose, out of a population of approximately 9.3 million inhabitants. .

The ministry has yet to release official figures on how many Israelis have received a fourth injection, which on Monday became available to anyone over 60 and medical staff. Additional booster injections were previously limited to the immunocompromised.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett released a statement on Monday saying more than 100,000 Israelis have received a fourth dose of the vaccine or have made an appointment to receive one, but have not provided further ventilation.

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