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A year into pandemic, Israel’s COVID death toll surpasses 6,000

Active cases dip below 30,000 for the first time since September as basic reproduction number continues to drop

A burial services employee with the remains of  a coronavirus victim on January 28, 2021. (Gili Yaari / Flash90)
A burial services employee with the remains of a coronavirus victim on January 28, 2021. (Gili Yaari / Flash90)

Israel’s coronavirus death toll since the start of the pandemic surpassed the grim milestone of 6,000 on Sunday.

According to the Health Ministry, 6,008 have died from COVID-19 since the outbreak of the virus last March — an increase of 16 since the figure was last updated on Sunday morning.

The ministry said 640 people were in serious condition, 221 of them on ventilators. Another 466 virus cases — or 2.8 percent of all samples tested — had been diagnosed since midnight.

However, there was also reason for optimism as active cases dropped below 30,000 for the first time since September, hitting 27,974.

Figures also showed that the basic reproduction number, or R0, representing the average number of people each virus carrier infects, had fallen to 0.78 — the lowest point since October.

Over 4.1 million Israelis have been fully vaccinated, the Health Ministry said, and over 5.1 have received the first dose. Just 1,128,000 Israelis over the age of 16 still need to be vaccinated, 256,000 of whom are above the age of 50.

An Israeli man receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit vaccination center in Jerusalem on March 11, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Health Ministry figures also pointed to the vaccine’s effectiveness. Seventy-four percent of those hospitalized are unvaccinated and just eight percent of patients have received both doses. Of the 41 people in serious condition and hooked up to ECMO machines, 82% have not been vaccinated at all. Of the 38 pregnant women in the hospital due to the coronavirus, none is fully vaccinated.

Recent morbidity figures represent a dramatic improvement over the past two months, credited chiefly to the successful vaccination campaign. The success comes despite the more infectious virus variants proliferating and the gradual lifting of virus restrictions.

Health officials have expressed optimism that Israel is turning the corner on the pandemic, with officials quoted Thursday by Channel 13 news as saying the situation was “the most hopeful it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic” last year.

Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash, in a briefing with reporters, said Sunday that no additional restrictions are expected to be imposed over the Passover holiday, which begins on March 27.

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