Hospital heads in Israel unanimously agree that the country is heading into a third wave of coronavirus infections, a report said Thursday, after the nation surpassed 1,000 new daily cases for the first time in a month.
According to the report by Channel 12 news, the hospital chiefs issued the warning in a videoconference meeting on Wednesday with Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy.
The officials reportedly agreed they expect at least one more surge of infections, if not two, before the epidemic is brought to an end in Israel through a vaccination program.
An unnamed source who attended the meeting told the network that all of the hospital chiefs agreed with the assessment that a surge in virus cases was on its way, and that the currently-low number of hospitalizations was only a result of the second national lockdown.
The source said that Levy did not give his opinion on the matter.
The warning from the health officials came as Israel surpassed 1,000 virus cases a day for the first time in a month, according to Health Ministry figures released Thursday morning.
The milestone is the latest indication that the spread of the virus may be re-accelerating, even as the government pushes ahead with reopening the country from its second lockdown.
After topping 9,000 on Wednesday for the first time in nearly three weeks, the active number of coronavirus cases in the country rose to 9,422 out of a total 332,317 cases since the pandemic’s beginning.
Of those sick with COVID-19, 282 are in serious condition, of whom 122 people are on ventilators.
Despite the rising figures, cabinet ministers overnight approved a pilot plan to reopen 15 malls around the country.
Outdoor market areas and some museums will also be allowed to reopen as part of the pilot plan, which aims to test the efficacy of virus safety guidelines.
The malls will be allowed to open on Friday and remain open until December 6. The mall owners pushed to have the shops open by Friday to take advantage of Black Friday sales.
Israel imposed a monthlong lockdown on September 18 that succeeded in bringing down surging infection rates but also paralyzed much of the economy and public life, as well as shuttering the entire education system. The government has since begun lifting the restrictions but health officials have sounded alarms as the drop in infection rates first slowed, and then reversed.
Senior health officials have warned repeatedly about the necessity for a possible third national lockdown in Israel to contain the coronavirus, warning against further easing of restrictions until an additional drop in infections.
The virus’s basic reproduction number — the average number of people each virus carrier infects — rose above 1 in the last days of October for the first time since the second national lockdown began to be rolled back earlier that month, and continued to rise before slackening slightly in early November.
Figures released Wednesday, which were based on new case numbers from 10 days earlier due to the virus’s incubation period, showed the figure at 1.06.
A basic reproduction number of over 1 indicates that case numbers will begin to expand exponentially.
The coronavirus cabinet, a forum of ministers dealing with the outbreak, had initially decided that the lockdown exit should only start if the transmission rate is under 0.8. Under the Health Ministry’s plan, rollback measures are supposed to be halted if the rate rises. The government has ignored that benchmark, however, pressing on with easing restrictions.