After meeting with health officials on Wednesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that the indoor mask mandate would remain in place in Israel. This would continue for at least another month, due to growing concerns of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in the country. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and the Prime Minister were presented with the latest figures in the country, along with that of other countries around the world. China was under a lot of focus, primarily because it has seen a significant increase in cases in last few weeks. According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office, authorities will conduct an inventory check of drugs and vaccines to prepare for the possibility of a serious strain of the coronavirus.
The authorities would also speed up the distribution of air filters that are to be placed in classrooms. Likewise, the ‘Magen Avot’ program, which is developed for protecting at-risk populations, including nursing homes, would also be maintained. The cautious approach taken by the Israeli Prime Minister could partly be because of upcoming Jewish holidays, which have previously led to mass infections and comprise of large gatherings. The holiday of Purim is expected to begin this week, which involves large celebrations and parties by the people.
Passover is expected a month later, which generally involves extended family gatherings. The holiday had been celebrated under a strict lockdown about two years ago and families had not been permitted to invite any relatives who were not a part of their household. The Health Ministry had announced earlier on Wednesday that they had diagnosed two cases of a previously unknown, new variant of the coronavirus in Israel. This variant appears to be a combination of the dominant variant of Omicron BA.1 and BA.2, which is another sub-variant. The variant does not require any special treatment and its symptoms were quite light.
These included headaches, muscle aches and light fever. The Health Ministry added that this variant of COVID-19 was still unknown around the globe. They said that they had diagnosed the cases in the PCR tests that belong to passengers coming at the Ben Gurion Airport. The ministry added that the situation would be closely monitored. Reports indicate that the BA.2 variant has re-infected a number of people who had initially been diagnosed with Omicron. While research on its severity is mixed, it appears that vaccines remain quite effective against it. There has also been a decline in the number of people who are getting themselves tested, but tests are conducted of all international arrivals.
On Wednesday, the ‘R’ number, which is the transmission number, reached 0.9, as it has steadily risen from a value of 0.66 two weeks earlier. In the last month, the number of new cases of the coronavirus in Israel have steadily declined. The statistics on Wednesday showed that the total number of active coronavirus cases in Israel was around 40,051 and the number of new cases diagnosed on Tuesday was around 6,332. The death toll in the country has reached 10,405 since the beginning of the pandemic.