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MKs Gamliel and Malinovsky, J'lem mayor Lion test positive

Over 71,000 new cases as health officials mull scrapping quarantine for kids

Serious cases still rising but expert says Israel may be at wave’s peak with tens of thousands of undetected daily infections; finance, culture ministers announce aid for art world

Workers at a drive-through testing complex in Jerusalem, on January 17, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Workers at a drive-through testing complex in Jerusalem, on January 17, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

There were 71,593 new cases of the coronavirus diagnosed Tuesday, marking a new daily record, Health Ministry director-General Nachman Ash told Army Radio on Wednesday morning.

Ash said that there were 526 people with COVID-19 hospitalized in serious condition, up from 498 on Tuesday evening.

The Health Ministry did not update its COVID data dashboard between Sunday and Tuesday, blaming technical problems, and it appeared the issues were persisting on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, reports on Wednesday said health officials were considering scrapping isolation requirements for children who were exposed to a carrier but remained asymptomatic.

Coronavirus czar Salman Zarka, spearheading the national response to the pandemic, reportedly met with leading pediatric doctors to discuss changing the quarantine policies that currently confine thousands of children to their homes.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, a member of the coalition, wrote in an opinion piece published by the Walla news site on Wednesday that she was “fighting” the government’s policies on isolation regulations for children.

Only approximately 24 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and just 12% have received two doses.

Vaccination in Rehovot, January 10, 2022 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The number of serious cases has climbed as officials scramble to recalibrate their response to the Omicron variant, which has caused staggering numbers of infections in recent weeks, but fewer deaths than previous outbreaks.

Eran Segal, a computational biologist from the Weizmann Institute of Science, and one of the top advisers to the coronavirus cabinet, told Army Radio on Wednesday that Israel could be nearing the peak in the current wave of infections.

“We estimate that we are approaching the peak of morbidity in the coming days, and it will happen this week if it isn’t already now,” Segal said. “We understand that the actual number of infected is twice those seen in the data, so that it is very possible that the number of verified [daily] cases is around 200,000.”

Those who were confirmed as testing positive included Likud MK Gila Gamliel, Yisraeli Beytenu MK Yulia Malinovsky and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. Lion quipped that he had contracted the virus “fashionably late” but was feeling well.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Culture Minister Chili Tropper announced on Wednesday a financial package for the arts world.

Israelis from the arts world protest in Tel Aviv on January 18, 2022 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The package will include tens of millions of shekels for institutions as well as to fund arts projects. The announcement comes after protests by many in the world of culture who were suffering due to coronavirus restrictions.

“The assistance package is an expression of the importance of culture and our commitment to the people of the world of culture and the need to help them get through the difficult period,” Tropper said in a statement.

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