With about half of all Israelis fully vaccinated – many of them three times – more Israelis tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday than in any single day since the onset of the pandemic.
The Jewish state set this new pandemic record yesterday with 12,554 cases – a 6.6% positive rate, well exceeding the 11,345 new infections registered on Sept. 2 during the height of the Delta wave.
The number of hospitalized COVID patients in serious condition has been creeping up as well. After having dipped to 87 last week, the number, as of yesterday, is now 129.
The hospitals are not yet strained, but the testing lines have exploded this week. COVID is competing with the seasonal flu which has made a reappearance after zero cases in Israel last year. We reported last week that nearly 2,000 people were hospitalized with the flu across the country.
With new cases on the rise, the government decided today to relax quarantine requirements, at least for the vaccinated, in order to avoid a de facto lockdown. Up until now, anyone who came into contact with virus carriers were required to test and quarantine.
But with the highly contagious Omicron variant, this would potentially send hundreds of thousands of people into quarantine essentially shutting down the economy.
Now the government is eliminating the quarantine requirement for vaccinated and recovered people who come into contact with positive carriers of COVID – 61% of whom are vaccinated themselves so far in this current wave.
Instead, people who have a valid Green Passport will be able to take a home test and, if negative, can go about their lives.
The unvaccinated and unrecovered will be required to undergo an official PCR or antigen test administered at various testing sites throughout the country and, regardless of the outcome, will be required to quarantine: 10 days if they test positive and seven days if they are negative, pending two negatives tests performed on both the first and seventh day of quarantine.
According to the Ministry of Health database, here is the breakdown for positive cases on Jan. 4:
7,079 are fully vaccinated
916 are partially vaccinated
3,444 are not vaccinated at all
Of the 62,438 active cases currently registered in Israel, children up to 11 years old make up almost 11,000 cases. Some of them are either ineligible for the Pfizer shot and a majority have not gotten it yet, which skews the number of “unvaccinated” who test positive.
Meanwhile, the nation is scrambling to get the fourth shot into the arms of anyone 60 years old and up, plus healthcare workers and people with compromised immune systems. Israel is the first nation to have taken this step, and some Israelis will have received four COVID shots in 12 months and is banking on the success of the booster shot during the Delta wave.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett predicted that as many as 50,000 Israelis a day would test positive for the coronavirus at the height of the “tsunami.”
On the other hand, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz sought to calm the public in response to “totally unnecessary apocalyptic scenarios.”
“I want to calm things down. We understand the infection is spreading, but there’s no reason to fearmonger among the public and there’s no need to panic,” he said.
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS