Health Ministry data released Tuesday showed Israel saw over 10,000 new coronavirus cases diagnosed the previous day — the second day in a row that the number has crossed that threshold since the start of April.
There were 10,692 people diagnosed with the virus on Monday, with a further 982 since midnight Tuesday taking the number of active cases to 60,622.
The number of patients in serious condition also continued to rise, reaching 180, with 36 of them classified as critical.
While Israel has seen rising infection numbers for a few weeks, an increase in seriously ill patients presents a real concern as the country deals with the spread of the new BA.5 variant.
Health Ministry officials have told hospital directors that they should begin preparations for the reopening of dedicated COVID-19 wards.
The virus reproduction number (R) fell slightly to 1.3, having reached 1.52 earlier in the month. The R figure is based on rates from 10 days earlier, and it measures how many people each coronavirus carrier infects on average, with any number above 1 meaning the spread of COVID-19 is increasing. It began to rise above 1 in mid-May, having previously stayed below that threshold for nearly two months.
The death toll since the start of the pandemic stood at 10,911 as of Tuesday morning, including 15 fatalities over the past week.
Coronavirus czar Salman Zarka said Monday that the true number of people infected was likely far higher than the data suggested.
“It’s the tip of the iceberg because there is no obligation to test and not everyone is going to get tested,” Zarka told Kan news.
Zaraka, who is spearheading the national effort in the pandemic, said that there was currently no reason for a lockdown to be imposed.
But he warned, “The public must get vaccinated and be careful.”
Due to the rise in cases, health officials are set to discuss a possible return to mandatory indoor masking as well as possibly authorizing COVID-19 vaccines for infants and preschoolers, which US regulators gave their approval for on Friday.
Israel officially lifted the indoor mask mandate on April 24, scrapping one of the few remaining coronavirus restrictions that were still in place more than two years into the pandemic. According to an unnamed Health Ministry official cited by Kan on Sunday, a decision on renewing the measure will be made next week.
Between April 2020 and April 2022, Israelis were required to wear face coverings indoors for all but 10 days in June 2021, when the mandate was briefly lifted before being swiftly brought back amid burgeoning cases at the time.