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Health Ministry said planning more easing of restrictions as pandemic ebbs

Top health official says declining number of serious cases ‘shows the vaccines are working’; TV report says more people will soon be allowed to gather in large venues

Israelis enjoy a concert organized by the Tel Aviv municipality at Bloomfield Stadium on March 5, 2021. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Israelis enjoy a concert organized by the Tel Aviv municipality at Bloomfield Stadium on March 5, 2021. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

As the spread of the coronavirus in Israel continues to decline, Health Ministry officials are planning to further ease restrictions on businesses in some 10 days, according to a television report Tuesday.

The reported plan will allow more participants at events such as wedding ceremonies and sports competitions. Officials told Channel 12 news that they have been discussing expanding the occupancy allowance in large venues by an additional 25 percent. The current cap for event venues and hotel dining rooms is 50%, and no more than 300 people.

Stadiums, cultural venues, hotels, and more may allow more participants in a week and a half for those carrying a “Green Passport” — proof of vaccination with both doses or recovery from the virus, the report said.

However, nightclubs are likely to remain closed due to their small size, which may cause increased infections.

Israelis enjoy a concert organized by the Tel Aviv municipality at Bloomfield Stadium, on March 5, 2021. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

“I am content with the widespread opening of the economy,” the head of public health services in the Health Ministry, Sharon Alroy-Preis, told Army Radio on Tuesday, adding that “despite the high infection rate, the number of new deaths is down — this shows the vaccines are working.”

Both the number of serious cases of COVID-19 in Israel and the transmission rate have continued to fall, according to ministry data Tuesday.

There were 660 people in serious condition, a drop of 53 from the previous day. There were 217 patients on ventilators and 262 people defined as critical.

According to data released by Channel 12, serious cases in the Arab community are rising significantly, while the ultra-Orthodox and general public are seeing a decline.

Some 20 new serious cases on a daily average are from Arab Israeli localities, the television report said, while fewer than six are from the general public and three from the ultra-Orthodox community.

According to the Channel 12 report, the Arab community accounts for 48.9% of new cases, while the general public has dropped to 47.4% and the ultra-Orthodox community stands at just 3.7%.

Israelis receive a COVID-19 vaccine, at a sports hall turned into a vaccination center in Petah Tikva, January 27, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Monday saw 20 more people die of COVID-19 and with four further fatalities by Tuesday evening, the toll stood at 5,926 since the start of the pandemic.

In total, 807,755 people in Israel have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. There are currently 37,841 active patients.

The positive test rate was 3.9% out of 95,526 tests carried out on Monday, with 3,646 new cases diagnosed. Just a month ago, the daily caseload of new infections was over 7,000.

So far, 5,017,355 people have received the first dose of their vaccination — some 54% of the population — and 3,899,027 have had the second as well (42%), ministry figures published Tuesday showed. Some three million Israelis are under the age of 16 and therefore cannot receive the vaccine.

Data released Tuesday showed that the virus’s basic reproduction number had fallen further, dipping to 0.95.

The calculation of the figure, which shows how many people each virus patient infects, represents the situation 10 days before the day it is published. On Friday, it stood at 1.01, indicating that the virus outbreak was increasing. A value below one shows that it is shrinking.

Customers sit at a cafe in Jerusalem after it was reopened following the easing of coronavirus restrictions on March 7, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The figures, released 12 days after the start of the Purim festival, were a sign of hope that the mass gatherings held in some parts of the country during the holiday in defiance of regulations, had not caused a spike in infections.

Much of the economy reopened Sunday, as the lockdown was further rolled back, 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 or leave the country while the airport remained largely shuttered.

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