Researchers: Israel Could See Up to 2M COVID Cases Within Two Weeks

Israelis wait for a COVID-19 rapid antigen test, at a Magen David Adom drive-through complex in Yerushalayim, on Tuesday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A team of researchers from Hebrew University of Yerushalayim who are advising the Coronavirus Cabinet presented on Tuesday updated models that show that if the current wave of transmission continues, Israel will see new cases peak at 800,000 to two million in approximately two weeks, with anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 people hospitalized with serious cases. Some 2-5% of the serious cases are predicted to be children under 11, the researchers said.

On Monday, the national coronavirus response coordinator, Professor Salman Zarka, warned that if more than 1,200 people were hospitalized for COVID at one time, the healthcare system would be unable to cope and a lockdown would be unavoidable.

Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej told Yediot on Tuesday that Israel was heading toward herd immunity, adding that within three weeks, anywhere from two to four million people in the country should test positive.

Meanwhile, healthcare officials warned that Israel’s Arab sector was poorly prepared for the omicron wave.

A high-ranking official in the Arab healthcare sector in Yerushalayim warned that the situation in the capital’s Arab neighborhoods was about to “get out of control.”

“In the morning, instructions say one thing, in the afternoon, another. There aren’t clear decisions. The people at the top don’t know how to manage things,” the official said.

“People aren’t buying home testing kits, or going to testing sites,” the official added.

Arab communities in northern Israel appeared to be better off, although residents were still slower to respond to public health instructions than the general population in the rest of the country. The town of Shfaram has set up a testing site for members of any HMO.

Local officials said that they have seen increased demand for testing, and that messaging about COVID is consistent in schools.

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