Up to a third of Israel’s population will be infected with the Omicron strain over the next three weeks, a leading health expert and adviser to the Israeli government said on Sunday, and added many won’t even know it because the country is quickly running out of test kits.
The infection rate in Israel grew from under 1,000 to nearly 6,000 in a 10 day period, and is expected to soar to a record 25,000 by the end of the week. Active cases have tripled within the space of a week. However, hospitalisations have not maintained as dramatic a curve, increasing from 77 to 110 in the same period.
Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute said that between 2-4 million out of Israel’s total population of 9.5 million will eventually become infected with Omicron, but according to his estimation the number of serious cases occuring at the same time wouldn’t be more than the current record of approximately 1,200.
“We already expect to see a doubling, and then a doubling of the doubling, in the coming days,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“We are watching and learning. We learn more every day and are also implementing lessons from the experiences of others, from London to New York. This is what the time we have bought is allowing us – the possibility of seeing the future.
“Our goal has always been the same – to allow the economy to function as much as possible while protecting the most vulnerable among us,” he added.
According to Segal, the restrictions that were previously in place to curb infections will be ineffective against Omicron, and infections will only cease when nearly everyone who could get infected gets infected.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Ministry of Health Director-General, Nachman Ash, said the country may be close to herd immunity.
“The price of herd immunity is very many infections, and that may be what will happen. The numbers need to be high to reach herd immunity, this is something that is possible,” Ash said.
More than 40 percent of new infections over the past week had received the booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine.