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COVID case count jumps by 79% since last week; 183 new Omicron infections diagnosed

Serious cases remain well below 100 as largest number of people receive first and third shots in over a month; more than 1,000 people test positive for fifth day in a row

Healthcare workers take test samples on December 21, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Healthcare workers take test samples on December 21, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The number of new COVID-19 cases confirmed thus far this week was 79% higher than last week, according to Health Ministry figures released on Friday.

The ministry said 1,482 new cases were confirmed on Thursday, bringing the week’s total to 6,455. The total number of cases last week was 3,616. Thursday was also the fifth consecutive day with over 1,000 new cases.

There were 183 new cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant confirmed on Thursday, bringing the total number in the country to 527. The majority of cases were of individuals who returned from abroad, the Health Ministry said Friday.

The “R rate” — indicating the number of people who will be infected by a single coronavirus patient — grew for the ninth consecutive day to 1.36, based on data from 10 days earlier.

Of the over 106,600 samples tested on Thursday, 1.4 percent came back positive.

However, serious cases remained low at 88, with over 80% of those patients unvaccinated.

The death toll since the start of the pandemic stood at 8,241, with the most recent casualty on Thursday.

A child receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clallit vaccine center in Jerusalem on December 21, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

At least 11,354 Israelis received their first dose of the vaccine on Thursday, most of them between the ages of 5 and 11 who were recently granted approval for inoculation. The total figure of first doses was the highest daily amount since October 3.

Thursday also saw 7,630 Israelis receive the booster shot, also the highest number since the end of October.

Health Ministry said 6,493,317 Israelis have now received the first dose of the vaccine, 5,868,003 have received the second dose and 4,184,491 have received a booster.

A woman is vaccinated at the Malcha Mall in Jerusalem on December 23, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Schools throughout the country have been hit hard by new cases in recent weeks, leading the coronavirus cabinet to authorize Thursday a new set of restrictions that will require online learning for schools with high infection rates. Thousands of students throughout the country have been forced into quarantine amid exposure to infected classmates.

However, the Health Ministry has reportedly decided that Israel will not begin offering fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccine starting on Sunday as planned for Israelis over 60 and others at risk.

Nachman Ash, the ministry’s director-general, has yet to approve the campaign and has been examining data from Britain indicating the Omicron variant of the coronavirus causes less severe illness than the Delta strain, the Channel 13 news report noted. Israel was set to become the first country in the world to roll out a fourth dose for certain groups.

Preliminary data suggest that people with Omicron are between 50 and 70 percent less likely to need hospitalization than those with the Delta strain, Britain’s public health agency said Thursday.

The United Kingdom Health Security Agency findings add to emerging evidence that Omicron produces milder illness than other variants — but also spreads faster and better evades vaccines.

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