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As cases mount, Israeli hospitals to test patients for COVID

A new variant can evade the immunity induced by previous infections.

A nurse collects a swab sample from at a coronavirus testing center in Jerusalem, Jan. 6, 2022. Photo by Shalev Shalom/TPS.
A nurse collects a swab sample from at a coronavirus testing center in Jerusalem, Jan. 6, 2022. Photo by Shalev Shalom/TPS.

Israel’s Health Ministry instructed hospitals to test new admissions for COVID-19 as figures showed a rise in the number of people testing positive for a new variant of the virus.

“In order to more accurately gauge the extent of the current morbidity for the purpose of setting policy, we ask that over the next three weeks a PCR test for the coronavirus be performed on everyone admitted for hospitalization at your institution,” Dr. Sigal Libert-Taub, head of the Health Ministry’s general medicine division, instructed the hospitals in a letter.

Researchers have already tracked a number of mutations of the variant called BA.2.86. The variant manages to evade the immunity the body is able to provide from previous infections.

According to the ministry, Israelis who have not received a COVID-19 vaccination in the past six months are more vulnerable. It advised those in high-risk groups such as the elderly or persons with serious pre-existing health conditions to get vaccinated for both COVID-19 and influenza when clinics administer their annual winter flu shots.

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Israel is not clear. Health Ministry figures are regarded as partial because many Israelis have been testing themselves at home since the pandemic tapered off.

Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital announced on Monday that as of Sunday night, the BA.2.86 variant accounts for more than 16% of cases in Israel. The hospital said its conclusions were based on Health Ministry data.

According to the ministry’s figures, there are 1,081 confirmed cases in the country. Of that number, 245 are hospitalized, including 45 in serious condition. Of those 45 patients, five are in critical condition and 11 are on ventilators.

Israel closed its last COVID ward in April, opting to treat coronavirus patients in regular hospital wards.

The Health Ministry recorded 12,635 Israeli deaths from the coronavirus since an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor became the country’s first fatality on March 20, 2020.

More than 6.9 million people have died of COVID globally, according to the World Health Organization.

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