Just under 4,000 (3,947) people were diagnosed with Corona Wednesday, which constitutes 2.93% of the individuals who were tested, according to Health Ministry data. It’s the first time the daily number of infected individuals has approached 4,000 since September, and it is almost three times higher than the number of people infected the week before on Wednesday. The coefficient of infection also continues to rise and stands at 1.62, and the number of patients hospitalized in serious condition is also on the rise, and stands at 94, 46 of them critical, and 38 on respirators.
The Health Ministry this week instructed the hospitals to prepare for an increase in the number of hospitalized children, given the spread of the Omicron variant in the country. In Israel today there are about 1.5 million children ages 0 to 18 who are not vaccinated. 730,000 of them have not yet turned five and are therefore not eligible for the vaccine—constituting the largest unprotected group. Although the disease is usually mild in children, even a fraction of a percent of the risk of hospitalization can greatly increase their numbers in hospitals in case of a mass infection.
The Bennett government continues to radiate confusion during this dangerous period: on Thursday, a new quarantine policy came into force according to which vaccinated and recovering people who are exposed to a verified Corona patient—regardless of the variant—will be able to take an institutional (not at home) antigen test to obtain an exemption from isolation. This decision changes the guidelines given only on Wednesday, according to which the vaccinated and recovering were required to perform a PCR test and stay in isolation until a negative result is obtained, which takes up to a day. Getting the result of an antigen test takes about fifteen minutes and in practice, this means is that there is no quarantine requirement for for vaccinated and recovering patients who have been exposed to a Corona patient.
Meanwhile, on Thursday afternoon, the first shipment of Pfizer’s Paxlovid drug against Corona is expected to arrive in Israel from Belgium with about 20,000 doses. It is an antiviral medication developed by Pfizer which acts as an orally active 3CL protease inhibitor. In December 2021, the combination of nirmatrelvir co-packaged with ritonavir was granted emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of COVID-19. According to Pfizer’s data, the drug reduces the risk of serious illness among infected people by about 90%. But Paxlovid is not authorized for the pre-exposure or post-exposure prevention of COVID-19 or initiation of treatment in those requiring hospitalization due to severe or critical COVID-19. Nevertheless, each complement of the drug, which includes five pills in one treatment dose, costs $750.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said this week: “We will be among the first in the world to physically receive medicine boxes in the country.” And if you heard the echo of his predecessor’s boasting at Ben Gurion Airport a year ago, standing next to those big containers full of vaccine goodness, you were not mistaken.
Concerned about the collapse of its hospitals under the future mass outbreak of the pandemic, the Bennett government has signed an emergency delivery contract with Pfizer for tens of thousands of Paxlovid doses. But the Bennett government is unable to push third-dose vaccination beyond the 4.25 million threshold—compared to 6,547,512 Israelis who received their first dose, and 5,909,059 their second.