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Seriously ill cases drop, but top health official warns Omicron wave still not over

Daily caseload down to 12,930; Nachman Ash says burden on health system took a toll in lives lost, but hospitals did not collapse

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash speaks during a meeting at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on October 24, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash speaks during a meeting at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on October 24, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash warned on Tuesday that although the COVID-19 caseload is dropping, the wave of infections fueled by the Omicron variant is still not over.

Ash addressed lawmakers during an emergency meeting of the Knesset Health Committee, called by opposition lawmakers to examine whether the country’s health system had collapsed under the burden of the pandemic.

“The wave has not passed and the number of confirmed cases is still high,” Ash said, acknowledging that “there was serious strain [on the health system] during this wave.

“That strain had a cost in human lives, but the hospitals didn’t collapse,” Ash said and noted that at its peak, the wave saw 200 patients a day slip into serious condition.

He warned that the number of active patients is still higher than in any of the four previous virus waves the country experienced, and the health system is still feeling the pressure. There were 12,930 new virus cases diagnosed on Monday.

Ash’s remarks came as the number of patients seriously ill with COVID-19 dropped to 753, according to Health Ministry figures released Tuesday, down by 19 from the day before.

The rate of seriously ill unvaccinated people over the age of 60 was given as 244.9 per 100,000 people compared to 91.2 per 100,000 for those who have received at least two vaccine doses. Over 90 percent of Israel’s 60-plus population have had at least two vaccine doses.

Of Israel’s 9.5 million citizens, 6,698,138 have had at least one vaccine dose, of whom 6,118,366 have had two and 4,461,159 received a booster. There are 720,986 who have also had a second booster shot. Vaccines are available to all Israelis aged 5 and over.

There are 112,271 active virus patients in the country, the figures showed.

The numbers came the day after the death toll passed the grim milestone of 10,000 since the start of the pandemic in Israel nearly two years ago. By Tuesday morning, the figure had risen to 10,003.

Despite the morbid milestone, signs on Monday pointed to the end of the fifth COVID wave. Cabinet ministers are reportedly weighing lifting the indoor mask mandate in the coming weeks, but no final decision has been made.

At a Meretz faction meeting on Monday, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said he is not rushing to remove masks.

On Thursday Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared that the current wave “is breaking” as ministers agreed to scrap some remaining health orders.

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