Hebrew U report signals Israel has gained control over second wave of virus

Despite another day with nearly 2,000 new cases, researchers say number of serious and moderately ill patients has stabilized, no new restrictions needed for time being

Jewish men pray at the Western Wall on the eve of Tisha B'Av in the Old City of Jerusalem, on July 29, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Jewish men pray at the Western Wall on the eve of Tisha B'Av in the Old City of Jerusalem, on July 29, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel has managed to gain control of the second wave of the coronavirus, thanks to a recent stabilization in the number of seriously and moderately ill patients, a Hebrew University report published Thursday found.

The curve for seriously and moderately ill patients began to spike in late June before stabilizing in recent days, the researchers reported. They credited the restrictions imposed by the government in recent weeks to limit crowding for helping to flatten the curve.

The researchers wrote in their report that earlier concerns that hospitals across the country would begin running out of resources in order to treat patients had been removed as a result of the improved numbers.

While they recommended that the government not add additional restrictions on movement and crowding, the researchers warned that the number of total new daily cases still remains high and that there remains a risk of another wide-scale outbreak as a result.

Israel has seen the number of new coronavirus cases rocket to more than 2,000 a day in recent weeks, after largely managing to keep the virus in check during March and April.

Health Ministry figures released Thursday morning showed an increase of 1,964 cases since 24 hours earlier.

The national death toll rose by six since Wednesday evening to 497.

According to the Hebrew University report, the death toll will climb by roughly 200 in the coming three weeks as a result of the high infection rate over the past month.

The total case count stood at 68,769, of which 32,756 were active, with 336 seriously ill patients — 99 of them on ventilators — 155 moderately ill patients and the rest suffering only mild or no symptoms. The ministry said 26,075 tests were performed Wednesday.

According to a Channel 12 report Wednesday evening, internal Health Ministry data showed a significant slowdown in the number of seriously ill cases and fatalities in the latest wave of infections, when compared to the first wave in March-April.

Jewish men pray at the Western Wall on the eve of Tisha B’Av in the Old City of Jerusalem, on July 29, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Statistics compiled by the ministry showed that adjusted to the number of those diagnosed, the number of seriously ill patients dropped by 45 percent between the waves, with the number of fatalities dropping by a full 80%. The number of patients requiring ventilation, in proportion to the number of cases, has also dropped by 80%.

According to the report, health officials believe the drop may be the result of several factors, including a higher percentage of asymptomatic cases; a caseload that trends younger; at-risk populations being better protected; and better knowledge of effective treatments for the sick.

Israel has the fifth-highest number of new coronavirus infections per capita in the world, overtaking the United States, according to data compiled by a scientific publication based at Oxford University.

On Tuesday, Israel was recording 210.96 new COVID-19 cases per 1 million people per day, Our World in Data said, behind only Oman, Panama, Brazil and Bahrain.

The US, which has the most reported virus cases and deaths of any country, had an infection rate of 198.64 per 1 million people.

Israel was still well behind the US and numerous other countries in fatalities per million people, with a current rate of 0.97.

Experts have blamed a too-speedy reopening and the lack of an effective contact-tracing program as main factors in the virus resurgence in Israel, which has come as new daily coronavirus cases around the world have also reached record highs.

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