The number of daily infections with what is believed to be the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is expected to reach its peak in Israel this week, according to local medical experts.
Last week, Israel saw more than 100,000 new COVID cases with 34,000 new infections on Saturday alone and a high of more than 48,000 earlier in the week.
Professor Eran Segal from the Weizmann Institute predicted that between 40,000 to 50,000 Israelis will test positive for COVID daily this week. He estimated that the real number of infections could be much higher – as many as 150,000 daily infections with people taking home tests and not reporting positive results – and hundreds of severe cases.
This week as many as one in eight Israelis could have COVID this week, Segal said. To put this in perspective, a Jerusalem Basketball club has announced that seven out of its 14 players have tested positive for the coronavirus and have postponed their upcoming games. Also, four Knesset members have tested positive including Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman who contracted the virus just five days after receiving a fourth vaccine shot.
Despite the rampant record-high infections in the Jewish state, about half of all Israelis hold a Green Passport which indicates that they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID within the past six months.
More than 530,000 Israelis ages 60 and up have received fourth shot, as Israel is the only nation in the world to roll out the latest booster in order to get ahead of the Omicron variant.
“Israel’s trailblazing vaccine campaign has reached another milestone,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Friday. “Thank you to the half a million Israelis who got the fourth dose of the COVID vaccine and in so doing, help to keep us all safer.”
Another half-a-million mark is the number of Israelis in quarantine due to infection themselves or coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID.
The number of hospitalized patients in serious condition jumped up sharply – from 247 in our report last week – to 436, according to the Heath Ministry's online database on Sunday.
Of the 260,000 active cases, about 85,000 are children. Dr. Alex Guri, acting director of the Children’s Division at Kaplan Medical Center, said that, despite this, hospitalizations for children remain low.
The high number of infections has prompted the Israeli government to consider shortening the quarantine time for infected patients from seven days – which was reduced from 10 days last week – to just five in order to get people back to school and work – including the Knesset members.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.