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COVID-19

New COVID record again in Israel as infections continue to rise

Bennett: "The Omicron wave is upon us – is very contagious"

Israelis stand in line to be tested for COVID-19 in Tel Aviv, Jan. 4, 2022. (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel recorded a new record – 17,521 positive COVID-19 cases in the last day.

In addition, the number of hospitalized patients in serious condition has more than doubled in just two weeks, from 87 to 205. The majority of these patients are unvaccinated, the Ministry of Health said.

But of those who tested positive in the past few days, more than 60% are vaccinated, according to the Ministry of Health.

Galia Rahav, head of the Infectious Disease Unit at Sheba Medical Center, put the number at 80% in an interview with Ynet last week.

"What meaning does it have anymore when we know that some 80% if not more of those who were confirmed to carry the virus are vaccinated?" Rahav said of the Green Passport for the vaccinated and recovered. "Sure, the vaccine is important and protects against serious illness, but I don't know what is the point of this setup anymore."

As the number of cases has been surging in the past few days, the government decided to relax quarantine requirements for the vaccinated and recovered and reopen the borders to foreigners. As of today, vaccinated/recovered tourists may return to Israel after a six-week closure due to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addressed the disaster that has characterized the testing lines and the confusion over the new rules, that Green Passport holders can take a home test rather than wait on line.

"The Omicron wave is upon us and, as you all are feeling, it is very contagious," Bennett said.

Bennett said the government is delivering 1.5 million free testing kits to retirement homes and even more to children and school staff in order "to alleviate the burden on parents."

The prime minister himself predicted that the daily caseload would rise to 50,000 new infections at the peace of the wave.

"Despite our preparations, the beginning of every wave is difficult and cumbersome, how much more so in a wave of mass infection such as Omicron," he said. "We are prepared with drugs, hospital beds, vaccines that are accessible to children, protection for the senior population and the fourth dose of the vaccine, and we are currently seeing to tests as well."

So far, some 250,000 Israelis have received a fourth shot, Bennett said. The government has received the new anti-COVID pill from Pfizer and another 5,000 doses from Merck. 

"We will find the balance between a functioning economy and management of the crisis," he said. "This wave will not last forever. There will be several tough weeks but we will get through them together."

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

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