Health officials on Thursday expressed optimism Israel is turning the corner on the coronavirus pandemic, amid a continued drop in morbidity.
Officials quoted by Channel 13 news said the situation was “the most hopeful it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic” last year. The officials said that if the positive trajectory continues, Israelis will be able to celebrate Passover without limitations at the end of March.
Contributing to the optimism was the lack of a spike in new infections following violations of coronavirus restrictions during the Purim holiday two weeks ago and the further lifting of lockdown measures.
In an interview with the network, former national coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu said he agreed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments to Fox News this week that “the coronavirus as a pandemic is behind us.”
However, Gamzu warned that as a sporadic disease with outbreaks, the virus could not be fully eradicated.
Gamzu said he supports reopening the Ben Gurion Airport, which remains largely closed, and called for schools to be fully reopened.
He also said he expects vaccines to provide protection for over a year and that he does not see any potential return to lockdown.
Earlier Thursday, the Health Ministry reported only 2.9 percent of coronavirus test results that returned the day before were positive, the lowest figure since December 13.
Ministry figures showed 2,802 cases were confirmed Wednesday, which along with another 1,478 infections recorded so far on Thursday brought the country’s total to 813,806. There were 34,809 active cases.
The number of patients in serious condition further dropped to 625, including 208 on ventilators and 258 classified as critical. The death toll climbed to 5,963.
Over 5 million Israelis have been vaccinated, of whom nearly 4 million have received both doses of the Pfizer inoculation.
According to Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute, 86% of Israelis aged 16 and up have now either been vaccinated against COVID-19 or recovered from it.
That has caused infections to steadily drop in recent weeks, despite the more infectious new mutated coronavirus strains proliferating and despite the gradual lifting of virus restrictions.