Israel's health officials on Sunday said they will be discussing the option of reinstating an indoor mask mandate in light of increased cases of serious illness from COVID-19.
Although the R factor, which indicates the spread of the virus in the community, dropped slightly over the weekend, the number of people suffering from serious symptoms has increased.
The Health Ministry said 158 patients are now receiving care for complications from coronavirus, compared to 106 a week ago.
The Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba said its COVID ward would be reopened to deal with the rising number of patients.
The Health Ministry said that 4,900 new cases of the virus were confirmed on Saturday. But they said those numbers are irrelevant because many Israelis test for the virus at home and not through official testing stations. They added that on the weekend, the number of people who submit to tests is especially low.
The panel of experts advising the government on the pandemic, was set to discuss the option of the fifth vaccine dose, which is not expected to be available before September, according to some officials.
But others in the ministry said there was need for a policy review because the Omicron offshoots did not cause a surge in severe illness and previous mitigation steps may not be needed this time.
In the meantime, after the FDA advisers recommended the administration of COVID vaccines for babies aged six months and older, the panel announced that a special meeting would be convened on Tuesday to discuss whether to recommend the vaccines in Israel as well.
On Wednesday, the FDA panel of advisers, unanimously recommended the agency authorize COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna Inc and Pfizer/BioNTech for millions of the youngest American children.
Dr. Doron Dushnitzky, a pediatrics specialist and a member of the panel said that even if a recommendation to administer the vaccines is made to the government, he expected most parents would refuse to vaccinate their young children, especially because the virus causes a mild illness in children.
"We will weigh the benefits of the vaccines and their possible side effects," he said.
First published: 15:08, 06.19.22