COVID death toll stands at 7,999 as transmission, serious cases continue decline

Bennett declares victory over fourth wave, but coronavirus czar cautions: ‘We’re still far from normal’

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Empty beds in the intensive care unit at the coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on October 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Empty beds in the intensive care unit at the coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on October 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel’s COVID-19 death toll stood at 7,999 on Sunday evening, as new cases and serious patients continued a steady decline, according to Health Ministry statistics.

Meanwhile, coronavirus vaccinations have dropped off considerably, despite millions of vaccinated Israelis still not receiving a third booster dose.

As of Sunday evening, 654 Israelis had tested positive for COVID since midnight, and the positivity rate stood at 1.7%, holding steady at 2% or below for more than a week. There were 17,975 active coronavirus cases in the country, with 537 of them hospitalized, and 380 of those in serious condition and 164 on ventilators.

The number of serious cases remains at its lowest rate in more than two months. Two weeks ago there were 579 serious cases in the country, and a month ago there were 679.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Israel in March 2020, 7,999 Israelis have died of the coronavirus. But the rate of daily COVID deaths has slowed over the past two weeks, with five deaths reported on Saturday and 10 on Friday, compared to 23 two weeks ago.

According to the Health Ministry, more than 6.2 million Israelis have received at least one vaccine dose and close to 5.7 million have gotten two shots. Additionally, more than 3.8 million have been administered a booster shot. But vaccination rates have bottomed out over the past week, with around 20,000 people a day receiving the shot — compared to close to 90,000 two weeks ago.

A medic prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on October 7, 2021, in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

This past Thursday, 16,923 Israelis received a booster dose, while almost double that figure — 33,744 — got their third shot one week earlier. Overall, almost 67% of Israelis have received at least one dose, while just 41% have gotten all three shots.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said ahead of the cabinet meeting Sunday morning that the end of the fourth wave is in sight.

“While it is possible to say with caution that we are defeating the fourth wave, the Delta wave, it isn’t over until it’s over,” said Bennett. “We are not taking the foot off the gas and are not taking off the masks. Therefore, as we are managing the gradual exit from the Delta wave, we are preparing the infrastructure for the ‘Omega’ scenario, the code name for a new variant, and of course, we are preparing for the winter, for a combination of flu and the coronavirus.”

Bennett stressed that “the state and the economy are open and daily routine is continuing,” as Israel conquered its fourth COVID wave. But he reiterated that “we will not become complacent.”

Coronavirus czar Prof. Salman Zarka attends a press conference about the coronavirus in Jerusalem, on August 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

But on Sunday evening, coronavirus czar Salman Zarka said it was too soon for such an optimistic outlook.

‘I wouldn’t want to use the word [‘defeating’],” Zarka told Channel 13 news. “When we left the third wave, we declared victory — and we were quite surprised by the fourth wave.”

Zarka suggested that “this time we should be a bit more modest.” He noted that there are still close to 400 serious cases in Israel, and transmission continues. “We should do this slowly and carefully. We’re still quite far from the situation of returning to normal life.”

The coronavirus czar said he would not recommend imposing limitations “when there is no need, but on the other hand, I think the morbidity is still here, and is still concerning.”

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