On Friday, new data from the Health Ministry showed that daily cases of the coronavirus in Israel had approached 17,000 the previous day. This set another record for the highest number of new cases reported in one day since the start of the pandemic. On Thursday, the total number of new cases diagnosed in Israel stood at about 16,830. By 8 a.m. Friday, an additional 4,032 cases had been identified. However, now that official testing sites have been deprioritized for majority of the population, there is a strong possibility that the number of unreported cases would be much higher.
According to the new testing regulations, those who are at high risk or over 60 will be given priority at PCR testing facilities. Those under the age of 60 and fully vaccinated are encouraged to take a rapid antigen test, either at a testing station, or at home, and these results can be used for quarantine exemptions. With cases skyrocketing and the new testing rules going into effect, Israelis have been rushing to stores for buying home antigen tests, even though some experts have warned that their accuracy is lower than that of PCR tests, especially in the case of Omicron.
Media reports indicate that internal Health Ministry figures show 50% of the rapid antigen tests of Omicron come back positive and the false negative rates are even higher in case of unvaccinated individuals. However, these figures weren’t independently verified. According to a health official, the old rules that required Israelis to go for a PCR test were unsustainable because of the rising numbers. But, it is important to note that rapid antigen tests are not fully accurate and can skew the figures. The highest daily record before this figure was 16,240.
A warning was given on Sunday by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that there would be more than 20,000 cases a day by the end of the week and next week could see 50,000 cases per day, as the new wave reaches its peak. The new surge of infections is driven by the Omicron variant and of the 320,000 tests that were conducted, about 8.22% came back positive. According to the Health Ministry, the ‘R’ number, which is the virus transmission number, experienced a slight drop from 1.99 to 1.96. As the number of cases has gone up, so has the number of people who are seriously ill.
As per the figures from the Health Ministry, there were 143 people in serious condition on Friday morning, a number that had been 134 a day earlier. The total number of critical patients was 56 and most of the people in serious condition have not gotten vaccinated. Experts believe the fifth wave of infections will crest within three weeks and the number of serious cases is expected to reach 1,200, just like it had done so in the previous wave. There was one COVID-related death in the last 24 hours and this took the total death toll from the beginning of the pandemic to 8,259.