Health Officials Poo-Pooh Panic Talk

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israel’s coronavirus commissioner Prof. Salman Zarka. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Senior Israeli health officials have demurred from the view expressed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that the country is on a trajectory to herd immunity and could see 50,000 new cases a day of the Omicron variant.

Coronavirus commissioner Salman Zarka told a news briefing on Monday: “We have no policy of mass infection. [Claims that we’re trying to reach] herd immunity have no basis. We are currently facing a combined wave, with the Delta variant still active, and quite a few hospitalized patients are suffering from it,” Zarka said.

“Our goal is to balance the rapid detection of verified cases, especially among high-risk groups whom we can offer the new drugs we’ve acquired, while at the same time allow as much normal life as possible,” he added.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz told a meeting of his Meretz party at the Knesset on Monday: “I want to calm things down. We understand the infection is spreading, but there’s no reason to fearmonger among the public and there’s no need to panic,” he said, without mentioning Bennett, according to The Times of Israel.

Bennett was not speaking based on his own analysis of the data, though. He reportedly received, along with other officials, several scenarios from experts from the Gertner Institute and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, which included a projection that 99% of Israel’s population would contract Omicron, though it was admittedly on the extreme side.

“What will happen, like what is happening all over the world, is that the restrictions that somewhat worked [against other variants] will simply be ineffective against Omicron, and the stop will only come when almost everyone who could get infected gets infected,” Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute told Ynet on Sunday.

Zarka did not accept it, telling the press conference that the idea has “no scientific validity.”