On Sunday, the Health Ministry released initial findings, which showed that the fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine offers protection to those aged 60 and above twice as much against getting infected and three times against severe illness, as opposed to people who receive only three doses. Almost 400,000 people were compared, who had received four doses, with 600,000 people, who had received the third shot about four months ago. Sheba Medical Center was also conducting a study and its preliminary results indicated last week that even though the antibodies in the blood did increase due to the fourth dose, it doesn’t offer significant protection against the Omicron variant.
There is a committee of health experts that is advising the Israeli government about COVID-19. Its head, Prof. Ran Balicer, stated that the Green Pass wasn’t effective against the Omicron variant because the system’s purpose is creating spaces that are free from infection, which it cannot do with this variant. The regulations of the Green Pass will expire by the month’s end and reports indicate that the government has no plans of renewing them. According to Balicer, a new Green Pass system should be implemented at public places. This should be one that requires antigen tests as well as vaccination, particularly in places where there are high-risk people, such as hospitals and old-age homes.
Balicer added that hospitalizations were one of the most important challenges that Israel was facing because it remains unclear as to how much increase there will be in serious cases. As per the figures on Sunday, there were 732 people in Israel in serious condition in the hospitals and as many medical workers were also quarantined, the staff is struggling to handle the load. The Europe director for the WHO, Hans Kluge also said in Sunday that the pandemic could end in Europe because of the Omicron variant, but he still urged people to exercise caution.
He said that there was a great deal of talk about an endemic, but it was important to remember that the virus has surprised us several times, so it is best to be careful because nothing can be predicted. He said that Omicron could infect about 60% Europeans by March, which could mean that it just might be the pandemic endgame. He also theorized that by the end of the year, the virus could rebound, but it wouldn’t mean the pandemic’s return.
On Saturday night and Sunday, the virus continued to spread throughout the Knesset. On Saturday night, Ruth Wasserman Lande, the Blue and White MK, tested positive and said she would continue to work from home. Ya’acov Litzman, the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) MK, also tested positive on Sunday for the second time, but was feeling well and following all guidelines. Sunday also saw Nira Shpak, the Yesh Atid MK, test positive. The Knesset’s Protocol Department also had a worker infected and both of them had been in the Knesset building on Wednesday. One worker in the Ceremonies Department and two Knesset guards also tested positive on Sunday.