On Saturday evening, the Israeli Health Ministry disclosed that more than 31,000 cases of the coronavirus were registered over the weekend. About 18,806 cases had been diagnosed on Friday and the remaining 12,495 till Saturday evening. There was also an increase in the number of seriously ill patients, as this went from 143 a day before to 172 on Saturday. The positive test rate also climbed to 9.5%. The ‘R’ number, which is called the virus transmission number and indicates the number of people an infected patient can pass the virus to, saw a slight decline from 1.96 to 1.95.
The total number of active cases in Israel had reached 108,239. The death toll remained unchanged from Friday, as it stood at 8,259. The data on Saturday continued the upward trend in the number of daily cases, as the highly contagious Omicron variant is causing a surge in cases in the country. Working at the Weizmann Institute, computational biologist Eran Segal, is also part of the coronavirus cabinet that advises the government about the pandemic. He said that they would hit about 40,000 to 50,000 cases daily in a week’s time, even though many of these may remain unconfirmed.
Still, he predicted that the number of serious cases would remain low and would be between 250 and 300 in the next week. He also noted that so far the data in Israel showed that as compared to patients suffering from the Delta variant, Omicron patients are five times less likely to become severe. Segal also added that most of the current serious cases in the country are because of the Delta variant and not Omicron. Furthermore, most of the patients in severe conditions are unvaccinated. Over the weekend, three members of the Knesset also tested positive. This included Shas’s Yoav Ben-Tzur and Likud’s Eti Atiya and Haim Katz.
According to the latest reports, with the change in testing regulations that give priority to over-60s and the unvaccinated, the crowds at most PCR testing facilities had gone down drastically. However, antigen testing stations all over Israel were now seeing long lines because the younger population in the country had switched to those. It is also possible for individuals to perform rapid antigen tests at home, but test kits are running short these days, with Israelis raiding shops for them. Some health experts have also warned that antigen tests are not as accurate as PCR tests, especially where the Omicron variant is concerned.
The new data from the Defense Ministry shows that antigen testing kits do not recognize Omicron cases 50% of the time. However, the Head of the Infectious Disease Unit at the Sheba Medical Center, Prof. Galia Rahav, said that they may have to change the current testing directives. She said that currently people were only required to test once after coming in contact with a confirmed patient, but they should also be asked to conduct a second test after a couple of days to account for the incubation period of the virus.