The number of new coronavirus cases diagnosed in Israel dipped to its lowest in three days on Wednesday, while positive test rates continued their slight downward trend since the beginning of the week.
There were 754 new virus cases diagnosed in 24 hours, according to Health Ministry figures released Thursday morning. That followed 841 cases on Tuesday, and 784 on Monday.
Of the 9,406 active virus patients, 353 are in serious condition, with 154 on ventilators. There are 89 in moderate condition and the rest have mild or no symptoms.
The death toll was unchanged at 2,597.
The positive test rate was two percent out of the 38,601 test results returned, its lowest value in at least five days.
Israel sharply brought down its daily coronavirus infection rates from some 8,000 in mid-September to several hundred by late October with a nationwide lockdown, which it began to gradually ease last month.
On Wednesday ministers voted to allow stores to reopen at the beginning of next week, over the objections of health officials who have urged a slow and gradual reopening of the economy, schools and more.
Stores will open for business on Sunday, with a maximum of four customers allowed in at a time, and in compliance with coronavirus regulations.
However, the move only covers street-front stores, seemingly excluding those in malls or shopping centers, and only in areas with the lowest infection rates.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and outgoing coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu both pushed back against easing the restrictions due to the basic reproduction number, or the rate of new cases stemming from each coronavirus infection.
Gamzu warned that Israel’s infection reproduction was at 0.88, and over 1 in Arab locales, well over the 0.8 level decided on by the cabinet as the maximum level required to reopen businesses.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was also reportedly reluctant to okay the openings, warned that the government could snap back some restrictions if numbers continued to mount.