Israel is currently going through a surge in Covid-19 infections, with the country reporting almost 200 virus-related deaths last week and the number of hospitalizations and serious cases continuing to grow every day.
And the Israeli authorities aren’t out of blame for this ‘fourth wave’ of the pandemic as they let their guard down after a massive vaccination campaign saw the number of cases of the disease drop to almost zero in late spring, Zarka said in an interview, published by The Times of Israel paper on Tuesday.
“Two months ago, after we celebrated victory against the virus and got back to our regular life, we closed some [medical] facilities and believed we won the war. We stopped trying to explain and push [the unvaccinated] to have the vaccination,” he pointed out.
It seems that some mistakes were made when we thought we won the war, and now we understand we only won the battle, the war is still here.
More than 60% of Israelis have already been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer jab, but the official in charge of the country’s fight against the coronavirus believes that it’s not enough.
“We have to continue and to explain and push all the people to get vaccinated,” he insisted.
Due to that moment of slackness and insufficient information about Covid-19, which is a “new virus,” Israel ended up being blindsided by its new more contagious mutations that infect even those vaccinated, Zarka, who became virus czar in mid-July, acknowledged.
“We thought based on what we know about virology that Covid-19 would behave like flu or other viruses, but unfortunately the Delta surprised us in the short time we had it.”
But the official believes that the medics will regrettably have more than enough time to study the virus, suggesting that “COVID-19 is here and will stay here, and we may have to take a mask for many months and maybe years.”
“The world was changed by this virus” and the people in Israel and elsewhere would have no other choice but to figure out how to coexist with it, he added.
Some restrictions would have to be introduced, but Zarka ruled out the possibility of blanket lockdowns like the one last year, saying that it was “an easy option” that harmed the people too much.
“It seems that if we learn the lessons from the fourth wave, we must consider the [possibility of subsequent] waves with the new variants, such as the new one from South America,” Zarka pointed out. “And thinking about this and the waning of the vaccines and the antibodies, it seems every few months – it could be once a year or five or six months – we’ll need another shot.”
Zarka is currently overseeing a large-scale booster shot campaign which has already seen 1.4 million Israelis getting their third dose of the jab. “People with the third shot have less risk of being sick,” he said, expressing hope that cases will eventually go down after enough people take the boosters.
The Israeli Health Ministry reported 9,831 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday – the highest number registered in the country since January. More than 660 patients were in serious condition, including 162 on ventilators. The overall death toll since the start of the pandemic has reached 6,864 people, it added.