Nachman Ash, the Director-General of the Israeli Health Ministry, and Salman Zarka, the coronavirus czar said that Israel should not let its guard down. Ash said that it was still very early to say much about the highly mutated Omicron variant of the coronavirus, so they could issue a call for calm. He added that the strain was still spreading in South Africa and there is not a lot of data available regarding its resistance to the vaccine. Ash also discussed the matter of Gilat, the wife of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett taking their kids to vacation overseas, just a few days after the premier had suggested that people not travel abroad and imposed a ban on tourists for preventing an outbreak of the new variant.
Ash said that it elected officials were required to set a personal example, but family members are a different matter. He said that he believed it wasn’t the right time to travel abroad because of the new variant and it would have been good for Gilat Bennett to not to do, but he wasn’t aware of all the considerations. Meanwhile, coronavirus czar, Salman Zarka said that people should be cautious about premature celebration. He said that seven cases of the new variant had been identified in Israel, which included four vaccinated individuals and three unvaccinated ones.
He said that these statistics cannot reveal much information and another week of waiting was required to understand what the strain means. Zarka said that they were being careful for now and were hoping that they would only have to deal with the Delta variant. Zarka was also questioned about the potential removal of restrictions that had been imposed because of the new strain. He said that the first thing they would eliminate would be the isolation requirements for people who are fully vaccinated. But, he said they would take a few more days to do it.
While concerns about the Omicron variant are present, Israel’s statistics were quite encouraging on Saturday, as the R number dropped below 1. This is the reproduction number that indicates how many people a coronavirus patient can infect and it dropped to 0.98. This indicates that the spread is contracting. According to Zarka, this had occurred because of the changed behavior of Israelis after the discovery of the new variant. On Saturday, the data from the Health Ministry showed that 447 people had tested positive for the virus on Friday, which was about 0.51% of the 89,000 tests that had been conducted.
There were 111 patients in serious condition, whereas the total death toll since the beginning of the pandemic was 8,199. However, media reports disclosed that 16% of Israelis who had returned from abroad this week had not taken a second PCR test after three days after their arrival, as per the government’s instructions. If this trend continues, it would mean that 18,000 people would not take the test per week, which shows that the Omicron variant could easily enter and then spread in the country.