With hospitals calm and deaths low, expert says Israel’s COVID wave about to recede

Prof. Nadav Katz says the sixth wave is almost at peak and will soon be in retreat, without anything close to damage inflicted by winter wave

Nathan Jeffay

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

A health care worker processes swab samples from Israelis at a testing center, on June 28, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
A health care worker processes swab samples from Israelis at a testing center, on June 28, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Israel’s current coronavirus wave is almost at its peak and the number of new daily infections will soon start to fall, according to one of the country’s top virus statisticians.

The transmission rate has dropped, with each confirmed patient infecting an average 1.06 others. A month ago, this figure known as the R0, was 1.46.

This number is calculated based on data from several days ago, so experts believe it’s possible that current data may even render the R0 under 1, meaning that the overall infection rate is shrinking, not growing.

“We are approaching the peak, and quite possibly are even a little bit after the peak,” Prof. Nadav Katz, part of an interdisciplinary COVID-monitoring group at Hebrew University, told The Times of Israel.

He said that pressure will continue to increase in hospitals for another one to two weeks, as patients tend to become hospitalized some time after infection. There are 1,165 Israelis in hospital with the coronavirus, and 350 serious cases — far lower than during the winter wave and well below capacity.

“The number of serous patients will go up, and in this respect we haven’t yet peaked,” Katz said. “However the hospitals don’t look like they will be overwhelmed — and while this is serious, we are not at all at the level of event we had in January.”

Prof. Nadav Katz, who heads quantum research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, speaking at The Future of Quantum Technology Conference in Jerusalem on Dec. 11, 2018 (Noam Moreno)

All in all, the current wave is emerging as far less dramatic than the winter wave. At the end of January there were more than 60,000 confirmed new infections in a single day, while currently based on a moving average it is about 10,000. And there were almost 1,100 serious cases over the last days of January, triple the current number.

However, experts have said that many cases in the current wave are going unreported.

Nevertheless, Katz noted that the biggest concern for the health systems is serious hospitalization and deaths, and these are lower than he expected.

The average weekly number of COVID deaths has been in the single figures since early April, and currently stands at six.

People stand in line to be tested for COVID-19, at a testing center on HaBima square in Tel Aviv, on March 28, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

“The overall mortality rate we’re seeing now is lower than we would expect for the number of confirmed infections,” Katz said.

He highlighted the role of vaccines in low mortality. Among the 60-plus age group today, those who are vaccinated have less than half the chance of ending up in serious condition. For every 100,000 people from this age group, 37.4 of the unvaccinated are in serious condition with COVID, while the figure is 16.7 for the fully vaccinated.

“Overall, rates of serious illness and death are lower today as a result of a combination of immunization, improved treatment, people who are at high risk taking steps to be careful, and variants seemingly becoming weaker in their ability to cause serious illness,” Katz said.

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