The Omicron variant of the coronavirus
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus
Photo: Shutterstock
Police officers at Ben Gurion Airport as Israelis prepare to fly for Passover holiday

Is coronavirus on its way out of Israel?

Medical experts weigh in on the future of the pandemic, estimating the Omicron variant - although highly infectious - causes a milder illness, enabling hospitals to cope much better with the pathogen

Adir Yanko |
Published: 04.19.22, 13:34
With Israelis flocking overseas and local tourist hotspots over the Passover holiday, it appears that as far as the public is concerned, the things are back to their pre-pandemic normal.
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  • But, is the coronavirus pandemic actually on its way out of Israel? Ynet has rounded up a host of opinions from Israel's leading health experts to try and figure out whether COVID is finally behind us.
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    שוטרי נתב"ג מפקחים על תנועת הנוסעים
    שוטרי נתב"ג מפקחים על תנועת הנוסעים
    Police officers at Ben Gurion Airport as Israelis prepare to fly for Passover holiday
    (Photo: Roi Rubinstein)
    Prof. Dror Mevorach, of the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem:
    The pandemic is not over. We, at our hospital, see six or seven new patients every day. But, the positivity rates from testing and the R factor, indicating the spread of the virus in the community, are all coming down. There is a good chance that morbidity will remain low enough to be tolerated and will not require special measures.
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    דרור מבורך
    דרור מבורך
    Professor Dror Mevorach
    (Photo: Yuval Chen)
    We are not in the midst of a sixth wave of the virus, but at the tail end of the fifth wave, so we are where we wanted to be: with a highly infectious variant, but one which does not cause serious illness.
    When we look at past pandemics we know that they can disappear. There is plenty of evidence to support that theory because of how the Omicron variant behaves.
    Vaccines were also found to be effective in preventing severe disease from Omicron, so there are many positive signs. The pandemic is still here but is much less potent and dangerous.
    Prof. Galia Rahav, head of the infectious disease department at the Sheba Medical Center:
    It appears that the Israeli public has decided that the pandemic is over, because many do not use masks and do not avoid crowds. It is true that the situation is much better than before, but there is no way to claim the coronavirus is gone.
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    גליה רהב
    גליה רהב
    Professor Galia Rahav
    (Photo: Dana Kopel)
    Although we see less infections, I cannot say that we are in control of the virus because we do not know what new mutations will appear and how long vaccines will remain effective.
    What we are now seeing is a combination of many vaccinated, new medications to fight the virus, and new variants that are less aggressive but fast spreading.
    This provides us with some peace and quiet, but we cannot say how long that will last, and if we are nearing the end of the pandemic. A new and more violent mutation could change everything. It is too soon to celebrate, and the world must be prepared by investing in new medications and a better vaccine that would remain effective after six months.
    Still, people are tired of the pandemic and prefer to forget all about it.
    Dr. Efrat Baron-Harlev, head of pediatrics at the Schneider Children's Hospital:
    We must remain vigilant, but go about our normal lives. The most important thing is to get vaccinated on a regular basis, in large numbers, larger than the average number of annual flu shot administered.
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    אפרת ברון הרלב
    אפרת ברון הרלב
    Dr. Efrat Baron-Harlev
    (Photo: Tal Shahar)
    We cannot predict the future, but leading virologists say that viruses remain as long as they are able to spread, but become increasingly less potent and their ability to survive decreases over time.
    The return to a routine is very important. It keeps us sane. The anxiety caused by daily conversations about the pandemic, I am happy to say, is also less prevalent. We do not ignore the virus. It is part of our lives but at the moment our mental health and that of our society, is the most important.
    Prof. Cyrille Cohen an expert in the immune system from Bar Ilan University:
    We can objectively say we are in a different place in all respects. Except for the need to use masks indoors, there are no restrictions in place on the public.
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    סיריל כהן
    סיריל כהן
    Prof. Cyrille Cohen
    People are getting infected still, and the virus remains among us, but its effect on our lives have diminished. Hospitals are able to keep the situation under control, and we now have about 200 patients suffering from serious complications.
    The Omicron variant of the virus has contributed to our ability to return to our routine because it is not a dangerous mutation, although it has infected many.
    At the end of the day, Omicron is no worse than the flu or a bad cold. I am not discounting the past two years but now, the situation is different.
    Can things go back to what they were before the Omicron? Sure. The virus does not rest.
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    The Omicron variant of the coronavirus
    The Omicron variant of the coronavirus
    The Omicron variant of the coronavirus
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    I am bothered by two things: the fact that the virus is constantly changing, and that it now infects animals as well.
    We may see a more problematic mutation in future, but that should not stop us from living our regular lives, as much as possible.





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