Bennett to Meet Health Experts Amid Concerns of New COVID Wave

A Magen David Adom worker takes a COVID-19 rapid antigen test at a testing center in Lod. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will convene a special meeting with health officials on Sunday, after the R factor rose to 1.02 on Motzoei Shabbos.

Ahead of Chanukah – which begins next Sunday night – there is concern among health officials of a new wave of coronavirus spreading.

Professor Dror Mevorach, who heads an internal medicine ward at the Hadassah Medical Center in Yerushalayim said the rising R factor requires careful monitoring.

“As soon as it is found to exceed 1, we can expect a rise in confirmed COVID cases, hospitalizations and serious illness,” he said. ” We must all understand that the pandemic is no longer receding.”

An outbreak of COVID-19 was reported in an elementary school in Tzur Hadassah near Yerushalayim with 28 students and two teachers having been infected by the virus. At lease nine classes were asked to isolate.

Bennett announced on Friday that Israel will begin vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 on Tuesday in the hopes of achieving herd immunity.

He referred to the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic as the “children’s wave,” in his public comments. He said 49% of infections were in children up to the age of 11 and said he would instruct Chanukah events to be held under strict Green-Pass regulations.

The Health Ministry said that over the past 30 days, more than 60% of newly confirmed cases were in the under-20 population with more than a third in children under 9, although there are currently no serious COVID-19 cases in that population.

Some health experts voiced their concern that COVID cases could be brought in through the international airport, especially in light of the surge in morbidity in Europe, brought on by the Delta variant.

Still, officials noted that since passengers are required to show a recent PCR test before boarding their flights to Israel and are then made to submit to another test upon their arrival, the risk of morbidity from travelers remains low.

In fact, they say, of the new cases detected in recent weeks, only around 3% were found in people who had entered the country.