Spread of mutations casts doubt on hope for end of lockdowns, coronavirus czar says

Prof. Nachman Ash, Israel's coronavirus czar, notes record numbers of ventilated, ECMO, patients and 'worrying trend' of pediatric cases.

Tags: Coronavirus
Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Police lockdown checkpoint
Police lockdown checkpoint
Nati Shohat/Flash90

Coronavirus czar Professor Nachman Ash on Monday afternoon is holding a briefing to discuss the spread of new coronavirus variations around Israel.

The briefing had been scheduled for Sunday but was delayed after a government meeting went overtime, Israel Hayom noted.

At the start of the meeting, Prof. Ash discussed the various draft plans for exiting the lockdown, noting that they are dependent on the rate of infection across the country. According to him, "We will recommend a limited plan if the rate of infection does not drop. The other option is a widescale plan which will allow a larger reopening of the economy."

"In recent days, we have seen a drop in the rate of confirmed cases, and the infection coefficient has dropped to 0.9. However, at the same time, there are several statistics which are worrying us," he said, noting that the number of people hospitalized and the number of seriously ill patients are high, and the numbers of people on ventilators and connected to ECMO machines have reached record levels.

He added that there is "a worrying trend of a very sharp rise" in the number of children with coronavirus - 35% in the general population, and 50% among haredim.

"The British mutation is here," Prof. Ash said, adding that according to "various estimates, between 40-70% of the cases confirmed each day are carriers of this mutation."

"The South African mutation has been found in 27 of the cases we found, and we do not know of additional cases. Right now our efforts are concentrated on breaking the chain of infection so that we do not raise the risk of this mutation. There is a question mark regarding the efficacy of the vaccine against it, while we estimate that the vaccine is effective against the British [mutation]," he explained.

"The Brazilian variant has not yet reached Israel, as far as we know. There are two cases of the California variant, and we are following it. The significance of the California variant is not yet clear with regards to morbidity and we believe the vaccine is effective against it."

When asked whether the current lockdown will be Israel's last, Prof. Ash said, "If in the past I believed so, the spread of the variants places that in doubt. It all depends on how we handle things. The vaccines are here and we are vaccinating at a fast pace and that will definitely impact the infection rate - but we will need to see that we're not in a situation with high numbers of infections. If we manage to take control of this - we'll prevent the next lockdown. And if we reopen too quickly, it could be that we will be causing the next wave."