As Israel continues its world-leading vaccination campaign, just 38 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed in the country on Saturday, the lowest rate in a year, according to Health Ministry data released Sunday.
According to the ministry, a total of 8,752 coronavirus tests were conducted Saturday, with 0.5 percent returning positive. Weekend numbers are generally significantly lower due to reduced testing.
Of the 1,805 active cases in the country, there were 153 serious cases, including 91 people on ventilators, the Health Ministry data showed. The death toll stands at 6,350.
On Friday, Israel saw its first day with no COVID-19 deaths in ten months of the pandemic.
In light of the low morbidity figures, coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said Sunday that coronavirus restrictions on gatherings would be loosened in the coming days, without elaborating.
The general limits on gatherings (excluding venues for vaccinated, recovered COVID-19 patients) are currently set at 20 indoors, 100 outdoors.
As infections have dwindled, Israel has rolled back restrictions on public life, including lifting the requirement to wear face masks outdoors, which ended last week.
With its aggressive vaccination drive, Israel has seen a sharp drop in daily mortality and infection rates since the pandemic peaked in late January.
On Thursday, the Jewish state passed the milestone of over 5 million people having received both vaccine shots.
According to the Health Ministry on Sunday, 5,376,918 second doses were now in Israeli arms, accounting for over 55% of the total population and more than 80% of the eligible population over the age of 16.
Israel’s vaccination program, which is based on the Pfizer-BioNtech two-shot vaccine, has seen it maintain the highest per capita inoculation rate in the world since it began in late December.
The country is preparing to start vaccinating children aged 12-15 as soon as the US Food and Drug Administration approves vaccine use for children in that age bracket.
A top expert on the pandemic said on Saturday that Israel may have reached “a sort of herd immunity” and could safely ease further restrictions.
Based on the vaccination rates and vast reduction in new cases and deaths, Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, told Channel 13 Saturday that the pandemic was essentially over for Israelis.
“In my assessment, the pandemic as we know it, in terms of the virus and the variants in Israel, from that perspective, is behind us in Israel,” Segal said.