Israel at crossroads with highest infection rate since pandemic hit

Fourth shot for all adults recommended as serious cases hit almost 900.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel is at a Covid-19 crossroads with its highest infection rate since the pandemic hit in March 2020.

For the time being, however, the government is sticking with its decision to remove quarantine restrictions for children exposed to the illness who have tested negative for the virus.

In the past two weeks, over 916,000 cases have been diagnosed in the country, more than half of them in the last week. A daily peak of 83,613 was recorded on Monday, with the number dropping to 76,017 Tuesday, although the infection rate has been over 20% in recent days, and the number of those seriously ill has risen to 888.

These high figures are raising concerns about the ability of Israel’s medical system to cope with the current Omicron wave.

Israel currently stands at No. 11 in the world in infections, well ahead of the UK (21) and U.S. (33), according to global tracking data site Worldometer.

Meanwhile, in recognition of the emotional damage done to children by forcing them to isolate at home for days after coming into contact with a Covid-positive individual, on Thursday the rule changes to allow them to attend school as long as they get an antigen test twice a week.

The government will rely on the parents to administer the at-home tests, to be provided for free, every Sunday and Wednesday.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the decision Tuesday as irresponsible, leading to “mass infection of all of Israel’s children” that will spread to their families and school staff.

“This is a real danger,” he said.

In a sign that the decision is not final, Channel 12 reported Tuesday night that the Health Ministry will “closely track” data on pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS). This condition, which is sometimes serious, has occurred in rare cases (0.5%) of children who had Covid-19, and its symptoms can last a long time after recovery.

In an attempt to limit the spread of the disease, Israel’s Health Ministry announced Tuesday its recommendation that all adults — not just those over 60 or in high-risk categories — receive a fourth vaccine.

As of Wednesday morning, 8,502 Israelis have died of Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, a replacement Covid law was passed Tuesday night that will tighten Knesset oversight over cabinet decrees regarding the pandemic. Declaring a state of emergency that diminishes its powers will also be the purview of the Knesset.

The law also stipulates for the first time that a negative test result is as good as a green pass (given to those who have been vaccinated or recovered from the illness) to gain entry to stores and other venues. There also can be no green pass restrictions for places where essential goods and services are sold or provided.