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But 'it is not a time for celebration'

Health Ministry chief predicts drop in coronavirus caseload in coming days

With serious cases decreasing, Nachman Ash says ‘there is hope’ virus spread has been curbed and ‘vaccines will outweigh the effect of the start of the school year’

Health Minister director-general Nachman Ash at press conference about the coronavirus, in Jerusalem on August 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Health Minister director-general Nachman Ash at press conference about the coronavirus, in Jerusalem on August 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said Sunday morning that he expects daily coronavirus infection rates to drop in the coming days, expressing cautious hope that the latest surge in cases had been curbed.

“I expect that the effect of the vaccines will outweigh the effect of the start of the school year and we will see a decrease in morbidity in the coming days,” Ash said in an interview with Radio 103FM, referring to the return to school on September 1.

The Health Ministry reported that 9,739 new coronavirus cases were identified on Friday, ending a four-day stretch in which daily infections topped 10,000.

Another 4,975 infections were recorded on Saturday, when testing levels are much lower. In all, there were 91,356 active cases as of Sunday morning and 1,114,518 verified coronavirus cases in Israel since the onset of the pandemic.

The positive test rate on Friday was at 6.91 percent, a sharp drop from Thursday’s 8.42%.

Ash said Sunday, “While we are seeing a halt in the rise in morbidity rates, it is not a time for celebration. We still have very high numbers.

“We are concerned about the epidemic, the high morbidity, and the congestion in hospitals. We are not sending a message of ‘everything is fine,'” he added.

Medical personnel treat a patient in the coronavirus ward at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem on August 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The number of serious cases rose slightly over the weekend, to 679, after it had begun to decline in recent days from a peak of 753 during the current wave.

Meanwhile, the death toll stood at 7,154, with 17 fatalities recorded on Friday and Saturday.

“Our situation is a little better and there is hope, maybe to be less worried, but we have to remain vigilant,” Ash said, echoing Health Minister Nitzan Horovitz’s comments Saturday night.

Horowitz said there were “signs of optimism” as he defended the government’s pandemic response amid the surge in COVID cases.

“I don’t want to shut down the country — I said there won’t be a lockdown and there isn’t one,” he told Channel 13 news. “I don’t want to cause hundreds of thousands to be unemployed and don’t want to close schools and businesses.

“Stop with the panic. We are acting with consideration and responsibility. We are doing the important things to combat morbidity, but at the same time we want to keep the country open,” Horowitz added, noting the continued impact of the vaccines on caseload numbers.

Israelis receive their third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit clinic on September 1, 2021 in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said Saturday that over 6 million Israelis had received a first shot of the coronavirus vaccine. In total, 6,011,624 people had received one dose as of Sunday morning, 5,507,946 had received two shots and another 2,581,893 had been administered a third dose.

Ash said on Sunday that he believes there are “many more who can be persuaded to get vaccinated,” saying the Health Ministry was making “great efforts” to reach out to them.

The ministry on Saturday released a list of guidelines ahead of the Jewish High Holiday season. It said that synagogues with over 50 attendants must require a “Green Pass” proof of vaccination or recovery from the virus, or a valid negative test, from worshipers, even for outdoor services. Children under 12 must present a negative PCR test unless they have a Green Pass by virtue of having recovered from the virus, as they are ineligible for vaccination.

The ministry recommended conducting prayers outdoors. Public gatherings in the country are currently limited to 1,000 participants indoors, and 5,000 outdoors.

Participants in gatherings of over 100 must wear face masks, the ministry said, though it recommended that masks be worn in smaller gatherings as well.

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