May 16, 2022

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Israeli Officials Say no Plans of Closing Airport amidst Spike in Cases

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On Thursday, Israeli officials clarified that a discussion held earlier about closing the Ben Gurion Airport in the event there is an outbreak does not mean that they have any plans of restricting flights in and out of the country. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett were presented with a comprehensive plan in a meeting on Thursday with health officials. The plan outlined the measures that would be taken for dealing with a potential outbreak because of a new coronavirus variant and this included sealing the country’s borders and canceling air travel, both in and out of the country.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement in which it said that the goal was to prevent any future strain from coming into the country. However, the discussion about closing the airport, especially in light of the rising cases of the coronavirus in Israel because of a new sub-variant of Omicron, prompted some to assume that they could actually implement such a move. Meuhedet HMO’s head, Sigal Regev Rosenberg said that the aim of the prime minister is to ensure that the country is prepared in terms of closing its borders and equipment in case a dangerous variant is discovered. 

The current rise in cases has been attributed by health officials to the BA.2 variant of the Omicron strain, which is considered more infectious, but not more severe. Salman Zarka, the coronavirus czar said that the new variant was spreading swiftly and there was a possibility of number of cases doubling to reach 30,000 in a week’s time. The latest data from the Health Ministry showed that the ‘R’ number, which is known as the transmission number, has increased to 1.42. A week ago, this number was less than 1. It represents the number of people who can be infected by a positive coronavirus carrier and higher than 1 indicates the infection is spreading.

On Wednesday, the total number of new cases confirmed was around 13,603. The positivity rate was around 19.08%. The total number of active cases in the country was around 66,821 of which 786 people had to be hospitalized due to complications. As for the serious cases, this number was steady at 301 and there were 130 people who were on ventilators. The death toll in the country has risen to 10,455 and the past week saw about 27 people lose their lives to the virus. 

Reports indicate that officials are concerned about the number of cases rising due to the upcoming Passover holiday, as the festivities will take place unrestricted for the first time in two years. The report indicated that officials were worried about people over the age of 60 and those who are not fully vaccinated, as they could lead to a renewed outbreak. A new campaign was announced by the Health Ministry on Thursday for vaccinating citizens over the age of 60, who have not yet received the fourth dose. Zarka added that there were no plans of restricting the Passover holiday.  

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