For the first time in nearly a month, new daily coronavirus cases rose to over 12,000, according to figures released by the Health Ministry on Monday.
According to the ministry, 12,869 new infections were diagnosed the previous day, the highest number of new daily cases since February 22, when 12,153 new cases were recorded.
The country’s R number — the transmission rate of the COVID virus — continued its recent climb and stood at 1.23.
The transmission rate represents the number of people each confirmed patient infects, on average. Any number over 1 signifies that the pandemic is growing.
The recent rise in cases has fueled fears of a resurgent pandemic, weeks after Israel lifted almost all of its restrictions.
The total number of active cases in the country stood at 49,349 on Monday. The number of serious cases, which generally lag behind trends in case numbers, were steady at 328, with 143 of them on ventilators. The death toll was 10,431.
“This [latest bump in cases] is probably happening because of BA.2,” Hebrew University epidemiologist Prof. Ora Paltiel told The Times of Israel on Sunday, referring to a subvariant of Omicron. “It’s also impacted by the fact there are now fewer restrictions.”
BA.2 is thought to be more infectious than the original Omicron, but the jury is out on whether it causes more serious cases.
Paltiel also noted that Israel has just celebrated Purim, which saw many gatherings, and on Sunday hundreds of thousands of people were packed closely together at the funeral of Haredi leader Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.
During an assessment meeting at the Health Ministry on Sunday, officials decided to postpone any planned closings of testing facilities and keep all 70 currently operating complexes open, the Walla news site reported.
Last week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that Israel will keep its indoor mask mandate in place for at least another month. Most of the other COVID-related public health orders have been rolled back.