On Friday, the national health providers in Israel began administering the fourth shot of the COVID-19 vaccine to those who have compromised immune systems. On Thursday, Nachman Ash, the Director-General of the Health Ministry, had given his approval for the boosters to be administered to immuno-suppressed individuals because of the new Omicron variant wave. The fourth shot can only be given if at least four months have passed after receiving the third shot. On Friday morning, Ash also approved the vaccine for all the elderly staying at geriatric facilities. According to the ministry, they had done so to prevent an outbreak at such facilities that would put the health and lives of the residents at risk.
With infections rapidly rising throughout the country, reports on Thursday and Friday indicated that testing sites were seeing a lot of traffic and some people had to sit for hours in order to get swabbed. A tester in Jerusalem revealed that they were experiencing an unexpected increase in people coming in to get tested. He said that they were working for eight hours and conducting a test every 40 seconds. On Friday morning, data from the Health Ministry showed that infection rates were still rising, with almost 5,000 new cases diagnosed on Thursday.
The basic reproduction number of the virus, called the ‘R’ number, continued to climb upwards, as it had reached 1.71. However, the number of serious cases was stable at 93 and most of these patients are those who are unvaccinated. Meanwhile, South Africa, where the Omicron variant had first been identified, disclosed that the wave of new infections had peaked quickly and was now declining. Generally, Omicron is thought to lead to milder illness amongst people, even though it could result in serious cases because of its highly contagious nature that could infect a massive number of people.
According to South Africa, they hadn’t seen a significant increase in deaths because of the Omicron variant. During a media briefing on Thursday, the Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz disclosed that officials were gearing up for higher infection rates due to the Omicron variant, but added that a lockdown wasn’t on the table. Horowitz said that they were ready for all possibilities and added that the situation in Israel was a lot better than the other countries. He said that their balanced and quick actions had bought them some time, but they shouldn’t become complacent.
A new rule was implemented for curbing the spread of the coronavirus, which requires people to wear masks in all outdoor gatherings of 50 people or more. Israel had lifted the mandate for outdoor masks in April and had only recommended that masks be worn at large gatherings. On Thursday, Prime Minister Israeli Bennett also had a meeting with health experts and they informed him that Israel would probably hit 20,000 cases per day in the next week. According to health officials the new wave will reach its peak in three weeks with a record number of serious cases and infections.