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Israeli senior health official: Current virus wave has just about exhausted itself

The deputy director-general of the Health Ministry said Wednesday that the current wave of the coronavirus appears to have just about “exhausted itself,” but he warned against public complacency that could lead to a new resurgence in cases.

“We haven’t finished this wave. It’s still with us [but] it’s just about a small fire at the moment,” Itamar Grotto told the Ynet news site.

However, he noted that with some 200 new patients a day, “this is more than what we saw at the beginning of this ordeal, and that could carry significant outbreak potential.”

Grotto was asked to comment on the spike in cases that were confirmed Wednesday morning when the Health Ministry announced that 443 cases had been recorded over the past 24 hours in the biggest rise in new infections in a single day since April 15.

He argued that it would not be correct to view the figure as having been a one-day total as there could have been back-logging in earlier days that slowed the confirming of these cases. However, he acknowledged that “we do see a trend of rising numbers starting from yesterday and we’re disturbed by it.”

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel rose to 14,326 Wednesday morning, with four more fatalities recorded from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 188.

Professor Sigal Sadetsky, the head of the Health Ministry’s Public Health Services, echoed Grotto’s sentiment Wednesday, warning that infections could swell in May if Israelis don’t heed social distancing measures.

“I am concerned there will be a second wave of infection in May,” she told the Kan public broadcaster. “It’s impossible to ensure that people don’t get infected if they don’t observe social distancing.”

She stressed that unless the rules are kept, Israel could see a rise in infections and a backtracking to stricter lockdown measures.

On Monday, Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov said that his office was preparing for the possibility of another outbreak next winter, and cautioned that such an outbreak would be “much more complicated and challenging” than the current one.

Bar Siman-Tov said it was “relatively lucky” that the current outbreak did not coincide with flu season.

“We do know there’s probably not going to be any vaccine [by] winter,” he noted in a conference call with diplomats from around the world.

At one point, he commented that “we are afraid of a second wave — it’s a possibility,” and said that, if it happens, Israel would take similar steps to those that were in force before Sunday’s easing of restrictions.

Bar Siman-Tov said that “nobody really knows” how long the crisis will last, but voiced confidence that “smarter solutions” will help Israel attain a greater sense of normalcy, and mentioned the possibility of an eventual vaccine, as well as treatment medicine and testing.

He predicted that a vaccine will take “far longer than we think,” but said later in the call that there could be technological innovations that help the country reach a semblance of normalcy sooner than people expect.

“Maybe there’s going to be another cycle and another cycle, maybe now, maybe in wintertime, but “but [sooner or later], we’re going to have to go back to [a stringent] COVID-19 routine,” he commented. “I’m not sure whether flights would be part of this routine menu, or when [the routine] is going to happen, but I think that eventually we will find a way to do it.”

Source: TOI