Health Ministry official: Most people will end up being infected with COVID

Tal Brosh says real question is whether those who contract the virus are vaccinated, thereby mitigating risks of complications; asserts closing Ben Gurion not necessary

Israelis wearing face masks walk inside Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv on August 9, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israelis wearing face masks walk inside Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv on August 9, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Most people will end up contracting the coronavirus, the head of the Health Ministry’s advisory committee for infectious diseases predicted on Monday.

“The [real] question is whether the infected person is vaccinated or not. It’s unavoidable that the pandemic will infect the majority of the population. It won’t disappear in another half a year,” Dr. Tal Brosh told the Kan public broadcaster.

Brosh, who also heads the infectious disease department at Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod, said he doesn’t see a reason to shutter Ben Gurion Airport, arguing that would distract “from the main problem — morbidity within in the country.”

“It can be just as dangerous to enter some cities within Israel,” he argued, though he acknowledged that there was some risk in keeping Ben Gurion open.

Also on Monday, Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said that his office is concerned by the increased rate of infections and will weigh expanding restrictions, including limits on businesses, in the coming days.

Ash reiterated a call for Israelis to get vaccinated, saying that higher inoculation rates would allow the government to avoid imposing a nationwide lockdown.

Dr. Tal Brosh, head of the Infectious Disease Department at Assuta Ashdod Hospital (Screenshot: Channel 13)

“We are doing everything possible to avoid lockdown,” he assured reporters at a press conference.

Ash said his office was seeking to determine the point at which a lockdown will be required. Channel 12 reported Friday that health officials believe that will be when Israel reaches 600 to 700 serious cases. The Health Ministry director said Monday, though, that other factors are at play in the decision.

According to a Sunday Channel 12 report, senior ministers are weighing implementing an emergency plan to provide relief to the healthcare system and prevent a fourth national lockdown.

The three-pronged plan would see the number of hospital beds and nurses increased throughout the country; some of the responsibility for coronavirus treatment transferred from hospitals to health management organizations; and a portion of the seriously ill COVID-19 patients — such as those not hooked up to ventilators — released for treatment at home.

In doing so, health officials hope they’ll be able to prevent hospitals from overflowing, even if cases continue to spike. Because much of the decision to implement a national lockdown would be based on whether the hospital system can withstand the uptick in cases, the government hopes that the emergency proposal will, at the very least, buy additional time before a shutdown is required, or in the best case scenario, allow ministers to shelve such plans entirely, according to Channel 12.

Buying time for the government is particularly critical as Israel is still in the early stages of its distribution of the third dose of the coronavirus vaccine, which health officials hope will lead to a slowdown in cases, particularly serious ones.

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