Illustrative image: Britain’s Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge speak to patient William Taylor, 94 , during a visit to the Clitheroe Community Hospital, in Lancashire, England, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, to learn about the challenges faced by rural health providers in the face of the coronavirus pandemice. (James Glossop/Pool Photo via AP)
After weeks of shrinking COVID numbers, Israel’s transmission rate has passed 1. This means that cases are expected to rise — and represents an ominous warning that Israel could be moving in the same direction as the United Kingdom, where cases are rocketing.
When the so-called R statistic dipped below 1, on January 19, it was a signal that the Omicron wave that started in December was ebbing.
The figure meant that each coronavirus carrier was infecting less than one other person on average, and therefore the number of cases were shrinking.
Now the opposite has happened: the R statistic is at 1.1. This emerged in the Health Ministry’s latest calculation, released Sunday and based on data from 10 days earlier, as is the norm with transmission calculations.
“This is probably happening because of BA.2,” Hebrew University epidemiologist Prof. Ora Paltiel told The Times of Israel, referring to a subvariant of Omicron. “It’s also impacted by the fact there are now fewer restrictions.”
She noted that Israel has just celebrated Purim, which saw many gatherings, and on Sunday close to a million people are expected to attend the high-density funeral of the Haredi leader Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.
Most of Israel’s remaining coronavirus restrictions were scrapped in late February and as cases have dropped, the population has become less cautious.
BA.2 is thought to be more infectious than the original Omicron, but the jury is out on whether it is more serious.
COVID cases are climbing, and the rising R suggests the numbers will get worse — as does a glance toward the UK.