The seminar was titled “Israel – A Glimpse into the Future”, where two Israeli experts on the COVID-19 virus met with European journalists on Monday.
– We are concerned, and we closed the country to tourism as soon as the Omicron virus was detected. From midnight, tomorrow, no one will be allowed to come to Israel from the United States, Canada and eight other countries. The reason is that most of the omicron cases we’ve detected are imported, says Salman Al-Zarqa, a doctor who is referred to as the “Caesar of Israel Covid.”
– will spread
Zarqa is responsible for managing COVID-19 in Israel, and is holding meetings with the government on Monday to consider possible new measures to curb the spread of the Omron virus.
The reason is that we know so little about the omicron virus, other than that it is highly contagious. This is why we are doing everything we can to prevent oomicron infection now, so we can prepare as best we can. Because we know the omicron will spread, and we don’t know if it will make people very sick. That’s why we’re taking a number of precautions now, Zarqa continues.
Currently, there are ten countries on Israel’s list of red countries that are not allowed to enter Israel: the United States, Canada, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Morocco, Portugal, Turkey and Switzerland. Haaretz reports.
The new fifth stage
– We are now in a new phase. Most affected and sick people have a delta variant. In addition, we now have an omikron, which means we are in a new emergency. So far, we’ve been able to limit the ohmicron, but we’re afraid we’re starting to get the fifth wave. We are trying to buy time for three weeks, by closing the borders, as well as being careful to reduce omicron infection, says Ran Paleiser, professor, senior advisor and leader of the Israeli national team of experts on COVID-19.
According to Paleiser, there are now 175 confirmed omicron cases in Israel. In addition, another 600 people are being screened again after what Palisser calls “suspicious PCR tests.”
We are in an emergency situation, but at the same time it is important to say that we have a small number of patients entering hospitals and intensive care units. Most of those admitted still had the delta variant.
Wanted with a supporter
The Israeli health authorities are conducting extensive operations to detect and isolate the infection. Omicron sufferers and their close contacts are closely monitored.
– We need more time to see what the consequences of Omicron will be. In addition to tracing and isolation, we are still conducting extensive vaccinations. Now children from five to eleven years old get the second dose. Plus, we’re working hard to convince people that they should take the third dose of the booster vaccine, Palisser says.
Israel was the country in the world that vaccinated its population first, starting in December 2019 and January 2020.
“Now four out of five million Israelis have received three doses, and we are working to convince the last million people that it is very important to take the booster dose,” Palisser says, continuing:
Israel is at the forefront of vaccination, including booster doses. We have seen that vaccines are much less effective against disease and infection after six months. A booster dose is necessary, he says, and he gives the following advice to countries behind Israel on the vaccine waiting list:
Four to six months after people have received two doses of the vaccine, they are no longer adequately protected. This applies to delta, and possibly also to omikron. So all countries should consider giving their citizens a third booster dose four to six months after receiving the first two doses of the vaccine because people are no longer protected.
Although Israel has managed to keep omicron infections low, they don’t believe they will be able to prevent its spread.
– it’s not possible. We just want to postpone it as long as possible, to increase the vaccination rate, save medicines and gain more knowledge about how Omicron works, Zarqa says.
Professor Al-Zarqa was scheduled to meet with the country’s authorities on Monday. Shutting down parts of the community is a possibility.
Omikron is very contagious so lockdown, masks and other measures are on the table to give us more time. In addition to closing us to all tourism, Zarqa repeats.
Unlike Norway, where the number of omicron cases is steadily rising, it has persisted in Israel. Of the 175 people confirmed to have Omicron, 113 came with the infection from abroad. They infected 31 people in their direct contacts, while 17 people had an unknown source of infection, according to Paleiser.
Possible fourth dose
Israel also does not rule out starting a fourth vaccination dose.
It may be possible to get a fourth dose, but we need to do more research, to see how long a third booster dose prevents disease and infection, says Palisser.
Also in Israel, there are parts of the population that do not want to be vaccinated. These are especially present in ultra-Orthodox circles and among the country’s Arab population, according to Palisser.
– But we are working all the time to inform and refer to the research that shows that the vaccine protects against infection and disease, he said.
Vaccine fatigue has become another challenge.
– I think many Israelis are sick and tired of having to constantly change their habits because of the coronavirus. Many people are tired of having vaccinations after three doses. But among those over 60, more than 90 percent took the third dose, so it works for the most vulnerable, Palisser says.
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