סלמאן זרקא
Professor Salman Zarka
Photo: GPO
Travelers at Ben Gurion Airport

COVID czar says new variant still mystery but mask mandate 'off the table'

Despite recent discovery of BA.2.75 subvariant in Israel, Professor Zarka says number of new cases indicates that current virus wave is 'on decline'; adds professionals hope to overcome future waves without restrictions on public

Adir Yanko, Alexandra Lukash |
Published: 07.18.22, 13:14
Israel's coronavirus czar said Monday that while the severity of the new COVID variant, which has recently been detected in Israel, is still unknown, a mask mandate is not expected to be reintroduced anytime soon.
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  • The Health Ministry announced Sunday that among travelers who recently returned to Israel, three positive cases of the new sub-variant were identifies, including one case imported from India and the other two from France.
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    נוסעים בנתב"ג
    Travelers at Ben Gurion Airport
    (Photo AFP)
    Professor Salman Zarka told Ynet that the latest Omicron offshoot BA.2.75 does not appear to be more dangerous than previous strains of the variant.
    "There is no logic in mandating the public to do these things in this situation," said Zarka referring to potential health curbs, adding that the spread of the BA. 2.75 is "similar to the other variants."
    "The working assumption is that there are more cases in Israel than the three we discovered, but it's still too early to say if this sub-variant will become the most common in the next few weeks," said Zarka.
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    סלמאן זרקא
    סלמאן זרקא
    Professor Salman Zarka
    (Photo: GPO)
    "As of now we're still in the wave of the BA.5 strain. This is our life - there are new variants, and we'll deal with them while carrying on with our routine lives," he added.
    Professor Zarka also said that although there are currently 430 COVID patients in severe condition in Israel, "in the last ten days there are signs indicating that the spread is declining."
    "We believe that we're on our way out of the current wave."
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    צוותי רפואה במחלקת קורונה בברזילי
    צוותי רפואה במחלקת קורונה בברזילי
    COVID ward at the Barzilai Medical Center
    (Photo: Gadi Kablo)
    He added that should more waves of the virus emerge, it would be possible to overcome them without restrictions on the public. "This is totally our goal," he said, "that life goes on while we protect those in danger."
    Zarka did, however, warn against the potential of another mass infection wave in the upcoming winter.
    "We'll professionally assess if to recommend that all the public receive the fifth dose of the vaccine," he said.
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