On Sunday, Nachman Ash, the Director-General of the Health Ministry said that even though there was an increase in the number of new cases of the coronavirus in Israel, there wasn’t a rise in the number of patients in serious conditions. This showed that the new sub-variant of the Omicron, which has been named BA.2, does not cause more serious diseases than the original Omicron variant. Ash stated that in recent days, there had not been a major increase recorded in the number of patients in critical condition. He said that this indicated that the sub-variant was causing illness on the same scale as the Omicron variant and should be considered living alongside the coronavirus.
There has been an increase in the transmission rate in Israel in recent days and the new daily cases recorded have also gone up. However, the number of hospitalizations of patients in serious conditions has continued to hold steady. The latest data from the Health Ministry showed that there had been a slight decline in the ‘R’ number, or the reproduction number, as it fell to 1.34. This number indicates the number of people that are infected by a carrier of the coronavirus on average and a reading higher than 1 shows that the virus is spreading.
This number had gone below 1 in late January and throughout February, but it had started rising in Israel once more since early March. The total number of people who were tested on Saturday was around 52,161 and 9,726 of these people had tested positive, bringing the positivity rate to about 23.69%. The figure from the Health Ministry showed that the total number of active COVID-19 cases in Israel is about 64,182 and this includes the number of cases confirmed on Saturday. There were approximately 136 people who were in serious condition and 117 people had been put on ventilators. The total death toll in Israel since the beginning of the pandemic has reached 10,464.
According to health officials, part of the reason for the rise in cases is the new BA.2 variant, which appears to be more infection than the original Omicron variant. Ash was asked if he believed that the end of the pandemic was in sight and he confirmed that he thought it was a possibility. He said that they could be moving towards the end and it could become easier in a few months. However, he added that people should not forget that the virus still exists and new variants can emerge.
On Thursday, there had been a high-level discussion held by Israeli officials about whether to shut down the Ben Gurion Airport if there is a renewed outbreak. But, the officials had emphasized that this did not mean that officials were planning on imposing a travel ban anytime soon. Last week, the Israeli government had decided not to remove any further COVID restrictions. Ash said that mostly it was just the mask requirement that was still in effect and it would be removed if there is a further decline in morbidity.