Coronavirus vaccine (illustrative)
Coronavirus vaccine (illustrative) Reuters

Experts from the Hebrew University have published a warning regarding the rise in serious coronavirus cases, emphasizing that simply wearing masks in enclosed spaces may not be enough to prevent the spread of infection.

In an interview with 103 FM Radio, Hebrew University's Professor Nadav Katz said: "There's a lot of uncertainty in the current situation. The influence of the current outbreak on the number of serious infections is unknown. We are a country with a very high vaccination rate, but we don't have a model preceding us in other countries, so we need to have a lot of humility with regards to what lies ahead, and that requires some level of caution. The bottom line is that we need to protect the vulnerable populations. It's better to be careful now, than to regret not being careful later on."

Professor Katz added: "Today, most of the new cases are the Delta variant, which has become the dominant variant in Israel. From the statistic analysis and the numbers which are still being gathered, it seems that the vaccine's efficacy at preventing infection by the Indian variant is lower. If with the Alpha variant, there was 90% efficacy, in the case of the Indian variant it's 60-80% efficient. At the same time, even if the vaccine does not prevent infection with the Indian variant, it may still be that it prevents serious illness."

When asked if there is a reason to lock down the old-age homes in order to protect the elderly, Professor Katz said, "Yes."

"The amount of caution will require some kind of softer Green Pass for hospitals and old age homes, and it's better to activate it now and not regret it later. We are aware of the collateral damage of such decisions, so we need to keep our hand on the pulse and not activate the restrictions in a draconian fashion, but rather to see that it really helps and use them wisely.

"If people take the issue of masks seriously now, and we prevent vulnerable elderly populations from being exposed, which would lead to severe illness, then there's chance we can prevent harsher restrictions.

"Just like with fires, when they are small it's worth putting in the effort to extinguish them, and not wait until they grow. In a situation of uncertainty, we don't sit and look at the fire - we get up and put it out. I prefer to make a mistake and have people say that the researcher from Hebrew University scared them all, rather than deal with dozens and hundreds of people who died unnecessarily."