As COVID-19 infections are on the rise once again, In recent months, experts said it may be time to mask up, at least for people at high risk or in crowded settings. Dr. Bibiana Hazan, the head of the infectious diseases department at Emek Medical Center in Afula, said there is no emergency "but people need to show personal responsibility."

Dr. Limor Ilan Bushari, head of the Emek Medical Center’s Cardiology division, was recently in Spain and returned suffering from severe symptoms despite receiving four vaccinations: "On my last day in Spain, I felt general fatigue that I simply attributed to travel. I got on a flight and began having chills, but again, thought nothing of it. Only when I returned home did I realize that I had a high fever which then lasted for five days, accompanied by headaches, congestion, loss of taste and smell, and difficulty breathing," she said.

"There's a new wave of COVID-19 in Israel. We didn't really think that we were past this. COVID-19 has become a disease that will stay with us, in waves that come and go mainly in winter. Recently, the virus mutated several times abroad. These mutations change virus slightly and people - whether previously infected or vaccinated - are now less protected, which is why we're witnessing a rise in cases.”

Is this new increase in COVID-19 cases felt in the hospital?
"At the moment, we have nine COVID-19 patients hospitalized, in conditions ranging from mild to moderate illnesses. This is completely different from previous waves; we're not expecting a massive pandemic or a collapse of the healthcare system, but we’re busier than we were a few months ago."

Do you have any patients in serious condition?
"We have one patient on a ventilator, but he has underlying conditions. COVID-19 is a contributing factor. Another patient on a ventilator is improving, she also arrived from abroad.”

Should the Health Ministry clarify its COVID guidelines? People were fall ill do not stay inside their homes.
"That's correct. Currently, there is no guideline stating that anyone who doesn't feel well should get tested. However, there is logic in the fact that people who feel something similar to the flu or COVID-19 should do a home antigen test. If someone tests positive, they should stay home for five days, as per the Ministry of Health's guideline, but it's not mandatory,” Dr. Hazan said. "People at risk or those who are still ill after five days - should consult a doctor."

Who would you recommend should use masks?

"Anyone who boards a plane should put on a mask, as most cases today arrive from aboard. Of course, people who know they’re sick or have just recovered should wear masks. People who visit hospitalized patients, family members, and intensive care units, need to take responsibility not only for their own health but that of others. So, for all these cases, I highly recommend the use of masks," Dr. Ilan Bushari said. “The Health Ministry recommends wearing masks in any enclosed space where people gather, especially on flights. I’ve already instructed our hospital to make sure visitors use masks.”

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