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People shop at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem

Up to a Third of Israelis Predicted to get COVID in Next 3 Weeks; Tests are Running Out

A leading health expert advising the government predicted Sunday morning , January 2, that one out of every three or four Israelis will be infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus over the next three weeks, cautioning that most won’t know they’ve been infected because the country is quickly running out of test kits.

Testing facilities across the country were inundated with huge crowds on Sunday as thousands of Israelis lined up on foot or in cars to get tested, with many waiting hours to be swabbed.

Health Ministry figures published Sunday morning showed that 4,197 new cases were confirmed on Saturday, January 1, a figure representing reduced testing on weekends, with the rate of positive tests rising to 4.57 percent. Daily infections in Israel have spiked from under 1,000 new cases some 10 days ago to almost 5,500 on Friday, December 30, and active cases have almost tripled in a week to 31,958. The total confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic stand at close to 1.4 million.

However, serious cases have seen a far more moderate increase, from 77 on December 22 to 110 on Sunday. The death toll remained at 8,244. There have been four COVID-related deaths in the country since December 21.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday at the outset of the weekly cabinet meeting that there will soon be tens of thousands of daily infections. He hailed far-reaching travel restrictions imposed in recent weeks, saying they delayed Omicron’s arrival and enabled Israel to study the outbreaks in South Africa, Britain, the United States and other places, effectively “seeing into the future.”

“Our goal is always the same goal: to enable the economy to function as fully as possible, while protecting the most vulnerable among us,” Bennett said, adding that the government was discussing potential solutions to the heavy strain on testing sites and reported shortage of testing kits.

Bennett suggested that Israel may need to change the criterion for who can be tested due to the shortage of testing kits, a phenomenon he said was being experienced worldwide.

In an official report handed to the coronavirus cabinet and in a series of media interviews, Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute estimated that 2-4 million out of Israel’s total population of some 9.5 million will end up catching Omicron, but the number of simultaneous serious cases won’t surpass the current record of approximately 1,200.

Segal urged Israelis who haven’t received their booster vaccines to get them, retweeting new British data showing that the third shot increased the protection against Omicron hospitalization from 52 percent to 88%. (TOI / VFI News)

The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health. - Psalm 41:3