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110 dead in a week, up 80% over prior seven days

With half a million currently infected, COVID expert says Omicron peak is here

Eran Segal warns of tough days ahead, as new serious cases rise even when total infections fall; minister, deputy minister test positive

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for COVID-19 in a lab at a branch of Leumit Health Care Services in Or Yehuda on January 21, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for COVID-19 in a lab at a branch of Leumit Health Care Services in Or Yehuda on January 21, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Prof. Eran Segal, a leading government COVID adviser, said Monday that he expects the spread of the Omicron variant to slow down this week, believing that Israel has hit the peak of the current wave, but predicted tough days ahead.

“[Omicron] infection has spread similar to the model we learned from the rate of spread in other countries,” Segal told Ynet. “This week we expect to see a decrease in infections. We’re already seeing a drop in those over 60.”

Segal said he expects that around 3 million Israelis have already been infected, including many not confirmed positive, noting that Israel is currently number one in the world, with the most infections per capita in the past week.

Health Ministry statistics released on Monday afternoon showed 83,088 new infections recorded a day earlier, easily shattering the previous record of daily tests set on Thursday, which was close to 75,000. With more than 415,000 PCR and antigen tests carried out on Sunday, the positivity rate stood at 23.23%.

As of Monday afternoon, 531,430 Israelis were actively infected, with 2,126 hospitalized, 814 of those in serious condition and 166 on ventilators. A week ago, serious cases stood at 459, and two weeks ago the figure was just 215.

Over the past two weeks, more than 850,000 Israelis have tested positive for COVID, with experts believing that the actual infections figure could be several times higher. In the past week, 110 Israelis with COVID died — an 80% increase over the past week — bringing the total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 8,458. A month ago the average weekly death toll was less than 10.

Eran Segal (Courtesy)

Segal told Army Radio on Monday morning that reaching the peak of infections is not an all-clear sign.

“Once we stop seeing a rise in new infections, we’ll continue to see a rise in serious cases,” Segal said. “I hope that by next week we’ll reach a peak, and we’ll see stability and the beginning of a drop.”

On Sunday, 181 new serious COVID cases were registered, a daily peak during the current wave and a high not seen since last January.

Health Ministry director general Nachman Ash instructed hospital directors on Monday to prepare for a potential delay to other, non-life-saving treatments. In a letter to directors of hospitals across Israel, Ash said they should be prepared for an influx of COVID patients and should clear beds to make room, including in wards not dedicated to treating the virus.

Segal said that while he believes Israel is “nearing the end of this wave, the chance of getting infected now is the highest it has been since the outbreak of the pandemic.” He said that becoming infected with COVID “is not inevitable; these are the days that we must be careful — in particular those who are at high risk.”

Also on Monday, Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Abir Kara tested positive for COVID-19, as did Ra’am party head MK Mansour Abbas. Razvozov said he is feeling well and not experiencing symptoms.

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