Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz
Health Minister Nitzan HorowitzAvshalom Sassoni/Flash90

Senior Health Ministry officials convened a press conference Thursday evening on the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in Israel.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said there was no intention to take far-reaching steps in the face of the new variant's spread. "In the coming weeks we will know more about the dangers of this strain. We need to change our perception. There are no sticks or carrots here, we work with citizens and look at the data and the reality on the ground. We are prepared for all possibilities, and will not shoot from the hip or act from hysteria. In the coming weeks, we will know more about how the Omicron variant behaves, what its danger is and what we are required to go through this wave successfully as well."

"In the meantime, we will continue to take the necessary precautions to maintain health and we will also continue to maintain the livelihood, education of the children, culture and routine of life. This is also part of health. We must see the whole picture. First of all, the protection of health and the prevention of infection and disease, as well as the preservation of the Israeli economy and democracy," Horowitz added.

He said, "There is no reason to talk again and again about closures and lockdowns, it is not on the agenda. The public is stressed enough, there is no need to stress them anymore. The Omicron wave is different from its predecessors. What we do is considerate and responsible risk management. We are committed to livelihood, education and as sane a routine as possible. My goal, too, in this wave, is to make a supreme effort to enable in-person learning in the classroom."

Horowitz clarified that no further oversight of end-of-year parties will be imposed. "Infection of other people should be prevented, it is a personal responsibility, we will not send a policeman and an inspector to check every person - act responsibly towards yourself and those around you."

Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash announced that he had decided to approve the administration of the fourth vaccine dose to immunosuppressed people.

However he noted that there is no intention to extend the fourth vaccine dose to the general public.

"Given the knowledge gaps that exist in the world in the current situation, we are acting with caution and responsibility," Ash said.

Head of public health services at the Health Ministry, Dr Sharon Alroy Preis, said that "this variant is breaking records across the world, with the majority of the morbidity being among the young. Most hospitalizations are for children aged 5-11 who are not vaccinated. That is why it is important to vaccinate children."

Coronavirus Czar Prof. Salman Zarka said that "Delta is still here and now so is Omicron. It seems that we will not be able to tell where it is Omicron and where it is Delta. Therefore we will treat the fifth wave as a combined wave."