A new wave of Covid infections is being reported in Israel associated with the Omicron BA.5 variant, despite the population being highly vaccinated, including many with four doses. The positive test rate is currently over 20%, masks have been recommended for the public indoors and a fifth-dose rollout has been mooted. There will be no new restrictions “for now”, the Government has said. The Times of Israel has more.
With coronavirus cases rising, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz met Wednesday with health officials and agreed there would not be new virus restrictions implemented at this stage.
The announcement that there would be no immediate change in policy came hours after coronavirus czar Salman Zarka said Israel appears to be at the start of a new wave of infections, and said that a fifth dose of the vaccine may be necessary for some sectors of the population…
While the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that there will be no policy change, a team advising the Health Ministry recommended on Tuesday that the public resume wearing face masks indoors, especially in gatherings. The team did not specifically direct the advice toward elderly and at-risk members of the population.
The mandate for face coverings in medical settings will remain in place.
In addition, the statement said there will be close monitoring of infection rates, including via testing the sewage system.
The meeting was held as case numbers rise in Israel, with virus czar Zarka saying it appeared to be the start of a new wave of infections.
“Unfortunately, it seems we are starting a new coronavirus wave in Israel — the BA.5 [variant] wave,” Zarka told a medical conference on Wednesday.
The Omicron BA.5 subvariant was one of the strains responsible for the latest surge of infections in South Africa.
Zarka also said that health officials would weigh the possibility of recommending a fifth dose of the vaccine to some segments of the population, but the health advisory team declared later that it didn’t recommend rolling out another booster yet, and said that such a decision will be weighed again in accordance with morbidity rates.
The team recommended allowing anyone over the age of five to receive a booster shot. It added a recommendation that health care workers be required to be triple-vaccinated.
The recommendations will be presented to Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash for approval.
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