COVID positivity rate hits highest figure since February

Close to 1.5 million Israelis have received a third vaccine dose, as early data indicates the booster campaign is effective

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

A healthcare worker examines a COVID test sample at a drive-through facility in Modi'in, on August 15 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
A healthcare worker examines a COVID test sample at a drive-through facility in Modi'in, on August 15 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

More than 6,400 people in Israeli tested positive for COVID on Sunday, with a positivity rate of 6.31 percent — the highest seen since February.

Out of 102,291 tests carried out among the general population on Sunday, 6,467 came back positive. The positivity rate in the fourth wave has been climbing steadily since late May, when the rate was less than 1%. At the beginning of August, the rate was less than 3%.

However, the R number, the basic reproduction number of the virus, has been falling since early August, and on Monday stood at 1.14, compared to 1.36 on August 1. An R rate of 1 indicates that every infected person will infect one other person on average, while a rate above 1 means the virus will spread more rapidly.

As of Monday morning, there were 67,801 active COVID cases in Israel, with 1,142 hospitalized, 670 in serious condition and 108 on ventilators. Sixteen people with COVID died on Sunday, and close to 150 people have died over the past week.

Despite the rising number of cases, the government has largely held off on drastic restrictions. Instead, it is counting on a booster dose campaign to stem the rising tide of infections and serious cases. Third doses of the COVID vaccine became available to those over 60 on August 1, and have since rolled out to all those over 40 as well as healthcare workers, teachers and pregnant women. As of Monday morning, close to 1.5 million Israelis have received a third dose of the vaccine.

Health officials have indicated that initial data shows the booster doses are already helping to lower the rate of serious cases. Early data from the Health Ministry aired by Channel 12 news on Sunday evening appeared to show that those who have received a third vaccine dose are highly protected against the disease. According to the data, just 0.2% of the first 1.1 million Israelis who got their booster dose have been diagnosed with COVID-19 after at least seven days passed since the shot.

In absolute terms, the number of virus carriers who received their third dose is 2,790. Of them, just 187 (0.01%) were hospitalized and 88 (0.008%) developed serious symptoms. Fewer than 15 of them have died, with the report offering no exact number. The data was not publicly released by the ministry, and could not be independently vetted.

A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot at a mobile Magen David Adom center on Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv, on August 14, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

As of Monday morning, 76% of people ages 70-79 have received a third dose, as have 60% of those 60-69, 37% of those 50-59 and 12% of those ages 40-49 — who only became eligible for the shot on Friday.

On Friday, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the Health Ministry’s head of public health services, told Channel 12 that she is cautiously optimistic about the effects of the booster doses.

“There is cautious optimism, and we see a curbing of serious morbidity,” Alroy-Preis said, while expressing hope that the boosters would soon be available to the entire population.

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