Hospitals around the country on Wednesday expressed their worry over the surge of coronavirus, saying they're bracing for a potential fourth wave of COVID-19 in Israel.
"The medical teams are exhausted, they've not yet recovered from the previous waves and will not be able to stand another one," a health official told Ynet on Wednesday as he urged people to get vaccinated.
Despite the Health Ministry's concerns, so far there has not been a rise in hospitalizations and serious cases.
The Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa is the only hospital in northern Israel currently treating patients with coronavirus. There are three people hospitalized in isolation in an internal medicine ward after the underground coronavirus ward that was operating since last October had been shut down.
Among the patients is a vaccinated woman in her 20s who is pregnant with twins. She is suffering from mild symptoms after receiving two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Other patients include a woman who recently returned from travel abroad and is said to be in moderate condition, and a 70-year old man in serious condition suffering from respiratory distress.
Despite the number of serious cases remaining stable, some health officials remain apprehensive. "It was obvious to us that removing the mask mandate was wrong," one official said. "Most hospitals kept the mandate in place inside their facilities, despite its removal and it appears they were right to do so," he said.
"This is the time to remind people that the pandemic is not over, and we must not be complacent," Rian Amin, a nurse who has been treating COVID-19 patients since March last year, said.
"People are traveling abroad and bringing back new variants. Vaccines prevent serious illness, but we must still be careful," he said. "We are still in a better shape than we were in previous waves of infection," he said.
Amin said medical professionals were better prepared to treat patients and have an improved grasp of the illness but warned that ability could change and is dependent on new variants and their effect on the disease.
With the an outbreak of coronavirus detected recently in the center of the country, the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot said their dedicated ward could be reopened in minutes if the need arises. There are 31 active patients in the city and over 160 others are in quarantine. The neighboring city of Modi'in has 100 confirmed cases.
Dr. Yoni Shapira from the Shamir Medical Center in central Israel said most new cases were found among children and they, for the most part, suffer from mild symptoms. He warned, however, that there could be more outbreaks in the near future.
"We may see a rise in hospitalization in the next couple of weeks," he said. "I hope there will be no need, but we are prepared with staff and equipment to deal with more patients," he said.
Shapira also warned that medical teams could be subjected to emotional stress even before case loads increase. "Our teams were under terrible mental stress during the last wave of morbidity and are apprehensive about having to deal with a similar situation. But I have faith that they will conduct themselves well," he said.
According to the Health Ministry, on Tuesday 50 people were hospitalized for COVID-related complications around Israel, with 22 of them said to be in serious condition and 16 on ventilators. In total, Israel has 1,160 active virus cases as of Tuesday evening.