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Israel’s third corona wave could be worst yet, health officials say

On the eve of a lockdown, hospitals chiefs warning they are stretched to capacity as virus running rampant

Hospital team members wearing protective gear as they work at the coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on Dec. 17, 2020. (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israeli hospital chiefs warned on Monday that the third pandemic wave could be the worst that the country has faced so far.

More than 8,000 new corona cases were recorded on Monday, the highest number since Sept. 30. Health officials warned of 10,000 daily cases if stricter lockdown measures are not implemented. As a result of the grave situation, the Israeli government voted in favor of tightening the current lockdown for at least 14 days starting on Friday. 

While Israel recently emerged as the country with the highest number of vaccinations per capita in the world, there are disconcerting signs that Israel is simultaneously facing its worst health crisis since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020. The ability of Israel’s health system to cope with the pandemic is once again stretched to the limit with hospitals working close to capacity. 

“We are at the very beginning of a very serious wave,” Prof. Pierre Singer, head of intensive care at Beilinson Medical Center in the central Israeli city Petah Tikva, told Channel 13 news. Singer noted his concern that more and more “younger cases” are admitted to hospitals, including patients in their early 30s. 

Salman Zarka, director of Safed’s Ziv Medical Center in northern Israel, agreed that the virus is “hitting again, more than in previous waves.”

The Health Ministry reported 1,345 hospitalized corona-related patients on Monday evening, a dramatic increase of 300 patients since Thursday. According to the ministry, 772 individuals were in serious condition, including 179 on ventilators. During the pandemic peak in October, 900 people were hospitalized in serious condition. 

Israel’s Health Minister Yuli Edelstein warned that Israel was risking becoming the next Italy, one of the countries that was worst hit by the pandemic. 

“If we don’t take the most stringent action, in March we will be in the same situation as Italy last March,” Edelstein said according to leaks from a ministerial meeting. 

To date, 462,209 Israelis have been infected with the corona virus, including 60,801 active cases. According to Israel’s Health Ministry, 98 people have died during the last four days alone, an average of 25 daily fatalities. 

Another worrying development is that 60% of the recent COVID-19 cases do not know where they were infected, according to Israel's Channel 12. This lack of awareness makes it far more difficult to effectively track and break the chains of the virus spread. Fully one third of the recent cases reportedly contracted the virus from another member of their household. Some 20% of the new corona cases had reportedly visited shopping centers while 17% had used public transportation. 

Meanwhile, the chief of the Health Ministry, Chezy Levy, told ministers that Israel needs 5 million immunized people in order to reach herd immunity. To date, 1.37 million Israelis have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. According to Levy’s estimate, 1.8 million Israelis will be vaccinated by the end of January.

However, Israel’s vaccination drive will likely be temporarily halted due to a temporary shortage of vaccination doses.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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