Israeli COVID expert says Omicron wave may well mark end of pandemic

A key government advisor on COVID-19 policy, Prof. Aron Sehgal said on Monday that the fast-spreading Omicron variant could mark the end of the pandemic as experienced in the past two years.

Asked by Channel 12 News whether Omicron will “kill the coronavirus,” Sehgal replied: “That’s really a big question that we all want an answer to. It can be inferred that yes, and hopefully so.” that is yes [it will],

The Omicron variant, which studies have shown generally causes less severe infections than the delta variant, especially in those who have been vaccinated, has raised long-awaited hopes that COVID-19 will become a pandemic. is starting to move towards more manageable endemics. Seasonal flu-like illness.

“But we have learned time and again over the past two years that this virus can mislead and surprise. There may be additional variants. But the more time passes, the better our tools become to fight it,” he said.

“We have medicines now. We have vaccines. Perhaps more than half the population in Israel and other countries will have natural immunity. All those things – one can hope – will help end the coronavirus, at least in the last two years as a pandemic we have come to know,” Sehgal said.

Health ministry data released on Monday evening showed 83,663 new infections recorded a day earlier, breaking the previous record for daily cases set on Thursday, which stood at 75,000. With over 437,000 PCR and antigen tests conducted on Sunday, the positivity rate stood at 22.21 per cent.

Aaron Sehgal. (courtesy)

As of Monday evening, 550,751 Israelis were actively infected, including 2,173 hospitalized, of whom 817 were in critical condition and 163 on ventilators. A week ago the severe cases were 459 and two weeks ago the figure was just 215.

In the past two weeks, more than 850,000 Israelis have tested positive for COVID, with experts believing the actual figure could be several times higher. In the past week, 126 Israelis died with COVID – a 106.6% increase over the previous week – bringing the total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 8,481. A month ago, the average weekly death rate was less than 10.

On Sunday, 183 new severe COVID cases were recorded, a daily peak during the current wave and a high not seen since January 2021.

Health ministry director general Nachman Aish on Monday directed hospital directors to be prepared for possible delays in other, non-life-saving treatments. In a letter to the directors of hospitals across Israel, Ash said they should be prepared for an influx of COVID patients and clean beds to make room, including wards dedicated to treating the virus. are not included.

Sehgal said that, while he believes Israel is “near the end of this wave,” the chances of getting infected now are “the highest since the outbreak of the pandemic.” He added that getting infected with COVID is “not inevitable; These are days that we should be careful – especially those at high risk.”

Amy Spiro and AFP contributed to this report.

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