Israel’s health ministry has advised people with compromised immune systems to wear masks in crowded indoor spaces as it marks an increase in COVID-19 hospitalisations ahead of the Jewish holidays.

In a statement, the ministry said there was a “moderate rise” in hospitalisations due to a number of COVID variants found both in Israel and around the world.

“Ahead of the holidays and as a result of increased morbidity, the health ministry recommends people in at-risk groups or those who want to limit the risk of infection wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces.”

Large family gatherings are common during the Jewish holiday season, which begins on Sept. 15 and extends over about a month.

The ministry said it was soon preparing to issue vaccines that target new subvariants.

COVID infections and hospitalisations have been on the rise in the U.S., Europe and Asia but are well below previous peaks. Israel is among six countries where a highly mutated COVID variant called BA.2.86 has been detected, but which scientists have said is unlikely to lead to a devastating wave of severe disease and death.