Top health expert estimates serious COVID cases to fall under 1,000 next week

Prof. Eran Segal, a leading government adviser on COVID-19 policy, said Saturday Israel would likely see less than 1,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients in serious condition next week, as the Omicron-driven wave continued to ebb.

“We estimate infections will continue to trend downward… and by next week we may have 10,000 or 20,000 cases per day… and by the end of next week we will be under 1,000 serious cases in hospitals, possibly even reaching 800,” Segal told Channel 12 news.

The number of serious patients has remained elevated during the gradual decline in morbidity over the past few days, standing at 1,048 on Saturday, according to Health Ministry data. But that’s down from last Sunday’s 1,259, the highest number recorded in Israel since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020.

Of those currently in serious condition, 270 are on ventilators.

In total, 2,339 people were hospitalized Saturday with COVID-19, of whom 336 were in critical condition, according to ministry figures.

The Health Ministry said serious cases were far more common for the unvaccinated. Among unvaccinated patients aged 60 and up, there were 349.2 serious cases per 100,000 people, compared with 28.8 for their vaccinated peers.

There were 22,360 new coronavirus cases diagnosed on Friday, as the number of active cases fell to 298,454. Last month, some 70,000 new cases were diagnosed daily, based on a weekly average, and active cases surged past 500,000.

Eran Segal. (courtesy)

But experts have estimated the true number of cases was much higher. Segal said Saturday that by the end of the fifth wave driven by the Omicron variant, at least half of Israel’s over 9 million population would have likely been infected.

According to Health Ministry data, some two million infections have been recorded in recent months. Segal said the true figure was like double.

Of some 100,000 tests conducted on Friday, the positive test rate was 22.76%, a slight increase from a day earlier, when over 21.8% of tests came back positive.

The transmission rate (measuring the average number of people each infected person spreads the virus to) continued to fall, reaching a value of 0.74 — its lowest figure since October.

The transmission rate is based on data from 10 days earlier and any value below 1 shows that the pandemic is shrinking. In December, the value shot up to 2.12, but has since been on the decline.

The death toll since the start of the pandemic stood at 9,458, with at least 268 fatalities from COVID-19 complications in the past week, the Health Ministry said. That figure marked a 30.6% decrease in coronavirus deaths compared to the previous week.

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