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Half of serious COVID cases are Arab Israelis, as community’s vaccinations lag

710 patients hospitalized in serious condition, 25% under the age of 50; total infections since start of pandemic near 800,000

Medical workers evacuate at the coronavirus unit of the Ziv Medical in Safed, on February 4, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Medical workers evacuate at the coronavirus unit of the Ziv Medical in Safed, on February 4, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Half of Israel’s 710 serious COVID-19 patients are from the Arab Israeli community, where the vaccination rates are the lowest, according to a Saturday report.

Arab Israelis make up around 21 percent of Israel’s population.

Channel 12 reported that 95% of the patients in serious condition haven’t been immunized against the virus, and 25% are under the age of 50. Serious cases among younger people have become more common as new variants spread in recent months.

Arab Israelis and the ultra-Orthodox have fallen behind in immunization rates.

According to Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute, some 90% of all Israelis aged 16 and up who aren’t ultra-Orthodox or Arab have either recovered from COVID-19 or received at least one vaccine dose.

The equivalent figure for the ultra-Orthodox community was 70%, while the lowest immunization rate, 67%, was among Arab Israelis.

For Israelis over 50, Segal said Friday that 98% of Israelis who aren’t ultra-Orthodox or Arab are vaccinated or recovered. For the ultra-Orthodox, the figure was 81%, and for Arabs, 84%, or 47,000 people.

Channel 13 reported Friday that most Arab-majority cities are designated as “red” areas with high infection rates. In the Arab city of Umm al Fahm, the weekly infection rate has climbed by 45% and the test positivity rate is 18%, the report said.

Data showed COVID-19 continuing to decline in most areas of Israel amid its world-leading vaccination campaign, as the number of total infections since the pandemic started neared 800,000.

The Health Ministry said Saturday that 3,716 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed on Friday, bringing the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 799,727.

The rate of positive tests has continued its steep drop and now stands at 3.6%, after surpassing 10% in January.

There were 40,565 active cases, including 710 in serious condition, 273 listed as critical and 234 on ventilators.

The death toll climbed to 5,856, including eight fatalities on Friday.

Almost 5 million Israelis — 4,925,155 — have received at least one vaccine dose, and 3,705,330 have received both shots.

An Israeli man receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot at a mobile Magen David Adom vaccination station at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on February 22, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The promising figures come as Israel enters the next exit phase from its third nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

On Sunday, much of the economy reopened, including restaurants, cafes, school grades 7-10 in low-to-medium infection areas, event venues, attractions and hotels.

Higher education institutions and religious seminaries were opened to vaccinated or recovered people and rules on gatherings and worship were relaxed.

The cabinet also decided to ease restrictions on international travel and sidelined a highly controversial committee that was deciding who could enter the country while the airport remained largely shuttered.

There will no longer be an approval process for returning Israelis. In the coming days, 1,000 people a day will be able to enter the country from four locations — New York, Frankfurt, London and Paris — with the number set to go up to 3,000 later this week.

Related: Israel reopens: All the new rules from March 7

The Ynet news site reported on Sunday that hundreds of international arrivals in mandatory, government-run quarantine hotels left after ministers canceled the requirement to isolate in the hotels, which went into effect at midnight.

The people leaving the hotels signed a document promising to remain in isolation at home.

A plan to require international arrivals to self-isolate at home with an electronic monitoring bracelet has not yet gone into effect. The government said police will step up enforcement of home quarantine rules.

Israel in February began easing restrictions following a third lockdown, and has since gradually reopened stores and shopping malls (for everyone); as well as gyms, swimming pools, hotels and some cultural facilities for those with Green Passes that show they have been vaccinated or recovered from the virus.

New coronavirus deaths and infections in Israel have continued to decline from highs in January, and the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients has dropped to its lowest point since last year.

Despite the overall decline in severity of Israel’s third-wave outbreak, coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said Friday that Israel could yet be forced to enter a fourth lockdown to combat the spread of the virus as the infection rate inched back up.

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