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Infection rates rise slightly even as number of serious cases drops

R-number, a key indicator of how many people each infected person passes COVID on to, nears one, but new infections, hospitalizations remain low

A Magen David Adom worker takes a swab sample from a woman at a coronavirus rapid testing station in the central city of Lod, October 17, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom worker takes a swab sample from a woman at a coronavirus rapid testing station in the central city of Lod, October 17, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Even as the number of serious COVD-19 cases continued to wane, Israel’s coronavirus reproduction rate (R-number) rose on Wednesday, closing in on 1, which would mean that the spread of the virus is again growing.

The reproduction number, which indicates how many people each infected person passes the virus on to, has remained below 1 for over a month but has seen a slight increase over recent days.

According to Health Ministry data, the R-number stood Wednesday evening on 0.95.

Nonetheless, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and serious cases saw a small drop. As of Wednesday evening, there were 5,137 active COVID cases in Israel, with 178 of them hospitalized, 138 in serious condition and 91 on ventilators.

A month ago, there were more than 375 Israelis with COVID in serious condition.

The number of seriously ill patients is taken as a key indicator of the gravity of virus waves, as those are the patients requiring hospital care, drawing on medical resources.

Medical workers at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem treat patients in the hospital’s coronavirus ward, on October 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Additionally, just 557 new COVID cases were reported on Tuesday, compared with peaks of more than 10,000 a day in early September. The Health Ministry said that of the 80,438 tests carried out Tuesday, just 0.69% showed infection.

In total, 6,261,285 Israelis have received a first vaccine dose and 5,759,419 have received two doses. Of those, 4,031,970 people have been administered a third boost shot, the Health Ministry data showed.

Earlier Wednesday, the Health Ministry notified the country’s health management organizations that the delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for children, which had been scheduled to arrive the previous evening, would not reach the country until next week.

Child-size doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccines, intended for those aged 5-11, will instead arrive next Tuesday and the vaccines will be available for the public the following day, November 24, according to the reports.

Health providers had reportedly been gearing up to start vaccinating children starting Sunday.

The Health Ministry was still waiting for an explanation for the delay, the Kan public broadcaster said.

An 11-year-old gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, November 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

When the adult doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shots were first approved for use last year, Israel secured a place high on the list of receiving countries, with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally negotiating deals with the company’s CEO.

Vaccination with two shots and a follow-up booster is already available to all those aged 12 and up in Israel.

The Israeli approval came days after the US Food and Drug Administration granted the vaccine authorization for the 5-11 age group, paving the way for the US to begin immunizing younger kids.

So far, over a million children in the US have been given the shots.

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