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COVID czar reports rise in infections, warns of fresh wave in winter

Salman Zarka urges people to get vaccinated for coronavirus and flu, noting that new vaccines adapted to variants have arrived in Israel

COVID czar Salman Zarka seen during a visit of Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz at the Ziv medical center in the northern Israeli city of Safed, on June 23, 2022. (David Cohen/Flash90)
COVID czar Salman Zarka seen during a visit of Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz at the Ziv medical center in the northern Israeli city of Safed, on June 23, 2022. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Coronavirus czar Salman Zarka said Wednesday that Israel could be facing a fresh COVID-19 wave and urged people to get vaccinated ahead of winter.

Speaking to reporters, Zarka noted that the \basic reproduction number has edged up over 1 again, indicating that the virus was again spreading. The number was at 1.12 on Wednesday afternoon. The figure, based on rates from 10 days earlier, measures how many people each coronavirus carrier infects on average, with any number above 1 meaning the spread is increasing.

“The virus reproduction number has passed one and continues to rise,” Zarka said, adding that he was “cautiously” predicting that Israel was at the start of a new COVID wave.

“The rise that we are seeing currently is not large. We are following it and we will be able to speak with more certainty next week,” Zarka said.

“In any case, it is important to note that for a while we have been preparing for the winter and looking at the possibility of a wave of COVID and flu infections,” he said.

Health Ministry data released Wednesday showed that 1,184 coronavirus cases were identified in the past 24 hours. Active cases stood at 9,411.

An Israeli man receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, at Maccabi vaccination center in Modi’in, on January 6, 2022, soon after fourth shots were introduced. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Just over 10% of the tests performed Tuesday came back positive. There were 98 people in serious condition, including 42 in critical condition. The death count stood at 11,667, with 2 people passing away in the last week.

Zarka urged people to get vaccinated, noting that Israel had recently acquired new vaccines that had been modified to combat the latest COVID variants. He also urged people to get the flu vaccine, saying both shots could be received together.

Zarka also recommended that people wear masks indoors.

Israel officially lifted the indoor mask mandate on April 24, scrapping one of the few remaining coronavirus restrictions that were still in place more than two years into the pandemic. Between April 2020 and April 2022, Israelis were required to wear face coverings indoors for all but 10 days in June 2021, when the mandate was briefly lifted before being swiftly brought back amid burgeoning cases at the time.

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