Daily COVID cases top 850, but serious cases appear to plateau

Serious patients down to 52, but new infections highest in 4 months as positivity rate hits 1.5%; PM calls meeting with ministers, professionals to discuss rise

People wear facemasks at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on June 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People wear facemasks at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on June 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Over 850 new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in Israel on Thursday, the Health Ministry said Friday, the highest daily tally in four months. However, a milder rise in serious cases in the heavily vaccinated country was appearing to taper off.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said he would hold a meeting at 2 p.m. Friday with ministers and professionals from the health, defense, public security, finance, transportation and economy ministries to discuss the “rise in morbidity of the Delta virus around the world.”

Health Ministry figures showed 855 new cases were confirmed on Thursday, the highest figure since March 22. That came after daily infections topped 750 on each of the previous three days.

There have been 849,654 cases since the pandemic began, representing nearly a tenth of the population. Active cases, which were around 200 a month ago, have reached 5,817 as the ultra-infectious Delta variant has taken hold.

The number of patients in serious condition dropped by one from 53 to 52 on Friday, with 17 of them on ventilators. The number of serious cases has been slowly rising since an all-time low of 19 last month.

The death toll since the start of the pandemic stood at 6,443.

Of the 65,125 tests performed Thursday, 1.52 percent came back positive — a rate slightly higher than in recent days.

In the Israel Defense Forces, 135 soldiers, officers and military employees were confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 as of Friday morning. Their conditions were all listed as mild.

In one outbreak, 14 soldiers of the Yahalom special combat engineering unit were infected, sending their comrades to self-isolation, according to the Maariv news site. On Friday, 535 people in the military were self-isolating, after coming in contact with confirmed carriers.

The Health Ministry on Friday morning downgraded six localities that have seen a surge in infections under its “traffic light” system for ranking municipalities based on the severity of morbidity there. However, an additional seven locals moved up the scale, as infections there slowed.

Only the West Bank settlement of Sha’arei Tikva and the southern Israel town of Giv’ot Bar were designated red under the Health Ministry’s color-coded ranking system, as the Tzufim settlement and the city of Yehud were upgraded from red to orange on Friday.

Ministry data showed 78.6% of the country’s population lives in areas designated green.

An Israeli girl receives a COVID-19 vaccine, at a vaccination center in Tel Aviv, July 4, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The resurgence of the virus, due to the Delta variant, has become a major issue for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s new government, coming less than two months after the number of cases dwindled as a result of mass vaccination, allowing Israel to lift most restrictions and reopen public life.

The ministry said 5,740,832 Israelis — 61.73% of the population — have received at least one vaccine dose, and 5,218,801 (56.12%) have been fully vaccinated.

Despite the recent outbreak, ministers decided Tuesday to ease some restrictions, shortening quarantine to seven days from the current 10-14 days while declining to back a Health Ministry proposal that would have reimposed some limits on gatherings.

On Thursday, Bennett, Economy Minister Orna Barbivai and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced their intention to introduce a “Revelry Pass” that will create limitations for weddings, parties and other large indoor celebratory events.

The plan, which must still be approved by the so-called coronavirus cabinet, will limit such gatherings to those who are vaccinated, recovered, or who present a negative COVID-19 test. While the gatherings won’t be limited in size, masks will be mandatory, except when eating or drinking.

Bennett said Wednesday that Israel can overcome the current resurgence of the coronavirus Delta variant without introducing more lockdowns if citizens heed the health rules, but warned closures could eventually be reimposed as a last resort if they do not.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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