Israel could be facing 'new Covid wave,' top health official warns

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Health Minister Director-General Nachman Ash attends a press conference at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, October 18, 2021.
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90Health Minister Director-General Nachman Ash attends a press conference at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, October 18, 2021.

'I hope that, like during the omicron wave, we can get through this without special restrictions,' says Ash

Israel's Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash warned Sunday that the country is at the start of a new wave of Covid infections.

This comes after over 7,000 new infections were recorded on Friday. 

“We're careful with terminology because we had something like this a month or so ago – there was an increase, and it went down very quickly. This time is actually different, and there is a new variant, the BA.5 [variant], which is more contagious,” Prof. Nachman Ash told radio 103FM on Sunday morning.

“I think that it’s possible to start calling this a new wave," he added. “I hope that, like during the omicron wave, we can get through this without special restrictions.”

The BA.5 variant accounted for 70 percent of infections in Israel as of last week. The BA2.12.1 strain accounted for up to 12 percent, making these two variants 15-25 percent more contagious than the BA.2 variant, according to Haaretz

Israel's R number stands currently at 1.3, slightly less than the 1.51 number seen earlier in the week. An R number of over one indicates that the virus is spreading. 

Ash reiterated the call for at-risk populations to resume wearing masks in enclosed spaces. 

Simultaneously, health officials said Sunday they would be discussing reinstating an indoor mask mandate. 

The Health Ministry said over 150 patients are receiving care for complications from Covid.

Additionally, the Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba said it would be reopening its Covid ward to deal with the rising number of patients.

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