Government response to omicron variant triggers uproar in Israel

Israeli doctor accuses health authorities of exaggerating fear of omicron variant

15:47 - 16/01/2022 Sunday
File photo
File photo

 The Israeli government’s response to the omicron variant of coronavirus has triggered controversy among health officials.

In a post published on the Ichilov Hospital's official Facebook page, Dr. Idit Matot, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, Intensive Care and Pain, accused Israeli health authorities of exaggerating the fear of the omicron variant.

"We have seen in the past month that omicron is highly contagious but causes minimal damage," Matot said.

The Israeli doctor noted that the Icholov Hospital, a main hospital complex serving Tel Aviv, does not have a single omicron patient on a ventilator or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

She said the publication of the number of serious patients with coronavirus in the media was “misleading”, calling for easing quarantine rules.

“People are forced to be imprisoned in their homes. We are in a de facto lockdown and the country is on the verge of collapse. Have we gone crazy?” Matot said.

The Israeli doctor’s criticism, however, was rejected by the Health Ministry, which said its response to the omicron variant aims to protect groups at risk of infection.

“The policy Prof. Matot is suggesting is liable to lead to serious harm for at-risk groups and a rise in the numerous serious patients and mortality,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, Prof. Matot’s conduct, and the language in which she chose to express herself, raise concerns that the lust for publicity sometimes overtakes responsibility,” it added.

The ministry also described the publishing of Matot’s opinion on the official account of Ichilov Hospital as “improper and forbidden.”

In Israel, 6.5 million have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and 4.2 million received two doses and a booster.

Since the start of the pandemic, the country has confirmed around 1.7 million coronavirus cases and more than 8,000 deaths.

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