Coronavirus Omicron variant
Coronavirus Omicron variant iStock

The director-general of Israel’s Health Ministry expressed guarded optimism Tuesday that the country may be approaching the end of the coronavirus pandemic, while cautioning that new variants could change that forecast.

Speaking with Kan Tuesday morning, Prof. Nachman Ash warned that the virus could mutate into new variants which may prevent the end of the pandemic, even as he offered the possibility of SARS-CoV-2 becoming endemic.

“If there aren’t any new variants developing, we may be seeing the end of the pandemic. But we know that the virus can mutate with new variants.”

Ash’s comments come following contradictory statements by health officials both in Israel and abroad regarding the trajectory of the pandemic.

On Sunday, Hans Kluge, director of the World Health Organization’s European division told AFP that Europe may now be moving towards a “pandemic endgame”, with as many as 60% of Europeans potentially becoming infected with Omicron by March.

"It's plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame," Kluge said.

The variant, which is far more transmissible but significantly less virulent than previous strains, could help create “global immunity”, and said that while COVID will remain endemic, the pandemic may not return.

But Prof. Ran Balicer, head of the panel of experts which advise the Israeli Cabinet on coronavirus matters, said he does not see the coronavirus pandemic ending any time soon.

In an interview with Kol Hai Radio, Prof. Balicer said he had also contracted coronavirus, explaining, "I had it relatively mild, but the illness is not pleasant. There are a few days where you really feel sick."

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