Israel battles to stem COVID-19 spread

Israel registers more than 10,000 infections in past 24 hours.

Israel battles to stem COVID-19 spread

Israel has seen a surge in the number of coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, as the government still refuses to apply a lockdown to stem the spread of the virus.

Figures by the Israeli Health Ministry showed that 10,402 infections were confirmed in 24 hours, up from only 1,806 infections a week earlier.

According to Anadolu Agency correspondent, long queues of Israelis can be seen waiting to conduct COVID-19 tests.

Markets, banks, restaurants and other public settings also began to ask customers to show their green pass cards, which indicate its holders as vaccinated or recovered persons.

According to the Health Ministry, 92,000 coronavirus tests were conducted on Saturday, 157,000 tests on Thursday and 135,000 tests on Wednesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urged Israelis "to be patient" in the light of the COVID-19 infections surge.

"We know there are lines at the testing centers... We are preparing to change the criteria for the tests in order to reduce the crowding," he said.

Bennett said Israel is likely to register over 20,000 cases per day, and could hit 50,000 daily cases at the height of the wave.

"There is a huge amount of verified [coronavirus] cases at the same time, above and beyond the reasonable capacity of the system," he warned.

For his part, Salman Zarka, head of the health ministry’s coronavirus taskforce, denied that Israel was seeking to apply the herd immunity policy.

"We have no policy of mass infection. Herd immunity has no specific basis," Zarka said in a press briefing. "We are currently facing a combined wave, with the delta variant still active, and quite a few hospitalized patients are suffering from it."

Eran Segal, a biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, said Israel would reach the peak in COVID-19 infections in the upcoming three weeks.

On Sunday, Bennett urged the public over the age of 60 to get the fourth dose of the vaccine against the COVID-19, confirming that the country was battling a wave of the omicron variant.

"We have seen countries, like the Netherlands or Germany, that because they did not have the time, they had to go into full or partial closure, and we have seen other countries like France, Britain, and the US, which are currently facing a record child hospitalisation," he added.

"I want us to navigate between these two extremes. Our supreme goal has always been to enable the economy to function as much as possible while we protect the most vulnerable among us."

The Israeli premier also called on the authorities to prepare to contain the omicron variant. "Israel started preparing for omicron early on and this bought us time, which we are using to our advantage."

In Israel, 6.5 million have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and 4.2 million received two doses and a booster.

Since the start of the pandemic, 8,247 Israelis have died from the virus.

Hüseyin Demir