Israel hits new record daily COVID cases, with testing high ahead of school year

Positive test rate tops 7% as over 10,900 cases found; 114,000 Israelis received a booster dose on Monday, a day after Health Ministry broadened eligibility to anyone aged 12+

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Parents and children from the "Cramim" school receive a COVID-19 home kit test ahead of the opening of the new school year, in Jerusalem, on August 30, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Parents and children from the "Cramim" school receive a COVID-19 home kit test ahead of the opening of the new school year, in Jerusalem, on August 30, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

More than 10,900 new cases of COVID were confirmed in Israel on Monday, marking a record one-day high since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The new record appeared to be the product of the worsening outbreak combined with more tests being conducted this month than in the past, when the rate of positive results was at times significantly higher than it is now.

Additionally, more of those diagnosed with the coronavirus are children — thanks to a mass effort to test them ahead of the new school year, which starts Wednesday — meaning a significant portion of the new cases are among those who are at a lesser risk of serious illness and cannot yet be vaccinated.

The positivity rate among those tested remained over 7 percent for the third consecutive day, as 10,947 of the 137,410 tests carried out on Monday came back positive. Until now, the highest one-day total of new cases was set in mid-January, with 10,118 positive tests in one day; at the time, the number of daily tests was lower, and the positivity rate was around 10%.

As of Tuesday morning, there were 83,542 active COVID cases in Israel, with 1,122 hospitalized, 719 in serious condition and 172 of those on ventilators. Since the start of the pandemic, 7,043 people with COVID have died in Israel, including more than 500 in August.

Schools are slated to open nationwide on Wednesday, despite the ongoing rise in new cases. According to the Kan public broadcaster, more than 90,000 students are currently in quarantine — due to either being infected or having come in contact with someone who tested positive — and more than half of those who tested positive on Monday were school-aged children.

According to the Ynet news site, 33% of those who tested positive on Monday were under age 11 and 15% were aged 12-18, while just 4% were over 60.

Dr. Sharon Alroy Preis, the head of public health services at the Health Ministry, told Kan that the new one-day high in cases was worrying.

“We’re doing all we can to lower it,” she said. “We asked to further limit large gatherings, but the cabinet is the one that makes such decisions.”

At a meeting of the coronavirus cabinet Monday night, ministers voted to extend the so-called Green Pass entry limitations to education, health, and social welfare institutions. Ministers also approved a plan for holding the traditional selichot prayers at the Western Wall under COVID restrictions, with no more than 8,000 worshipers permitted to attend at any one time, divided into 18 capsules.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz arrives at a temporary vaccination center in the Arab Israeli town of Kfar Qassem on August 23, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

Current Health Ministry guidelines ban open-air gatherings of more than 5,000 people for mass events like concerts, while personal celebrations are capped at 500 people each.

As of Tuesday morning, 2,157,299 people — more than 23% of the overall population — had received a third booster dose of the COVID vaccine. Close to 115,000 people received their third dose on Monday, a one-day high since the booster dose campaign began on August 1.

On Sunday, Health Ministry officials opened up the booster doses to the entire eligible population — those age 12 and up whose last dose had been at least five months earlier — and announced that those who have received three doses will no longer be required to undergo an extended quarantine after returning from abroad.

The officials also revealed that, starting October 1, the Green Pass — which allows entry to most public places only for those vaccinated or recovered — would only be valid for six months following the second dose, meaning individuals will have to receive a booster dose in order to maintain their Green Pass.

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