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Israel virus cases up, positive test rate falls; jail says 65 prisoners infected

Health Ministry figures show 774 new cases with a 2.3% positivity rate on Monday as testing levels also increase; dozens of inmates at Gilboa Prison confirmed to have coronavirus

People shop at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, 2 November, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
People shop at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, 2 November, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said on Tuesday that the rate in positive coronavirus test results had dropped, but the number of confirmed infections showed a slight upward trend, with 774 new cases diagnosed on Monday.

The figures were released as it was reported an outbreak of the virus at the Gilboa Prison in the north of the country infected 65 inmates.

Some of those infected were said to be security prisoners, including members of the Hamas terror group.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the majority of prisoners who tested positive were asymptomatic and all were in good condition. Entry and exit to the facility has been blocked.

Illustrative: The Israeli Prison Authorities, Gilboa Prison, February 28, 2013. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The Health Ministry announced on Tuesday that of the 34,128 test results returned a day earlier, 2.3% were positive to confirm infection with the virus, the Health Ministry data showed.

The drop came the day after a military task force warned that the positive test rate had been climbing. Health Ministry data had previously shown that the positive test rate had risen from around two percent throughout last week to 2.9% on Saturday and 3.1% on Sunday.

However, testing levels were up, with 34,128 people sampled on Monday. Outgoing coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu has warned that testing levels need to be at least 30,000 per day for officials to have a good overview of the situation.

Israel sharply brought down its daily COVID-19 infection rates from some 8,000 in mid-September to several hundred by late October with a nationwide lockdown, which it began to gradually ease two weeks ago.

The latest figures showed that there were 774 new cases identified on Monday, bringing the number of active patients to 9,769. That followed 649 new cases diagnosed on Sunday.

Magen David Adom worker takes a patient to the coronavirus unit at the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem on November 1, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Of the current active patients, 382 are in serious condition with 164 on ventilators. There are 95 patients in moderate condition and the rest are asymptomatic or have no symptoms.

Since Monday morning, 26 people have died from COVID-19, although there were no new fatalities overnight.

The most infected city is the capital Jerusalem with 1,480 active patients, followed by Tel Aviv with 409 and Bnei Brak with 347.

Since the start of the outbreak earlier this year there have been 315,983 virus cases diagnosed in Israel.

A woman rides the light rail outside the central bus station in Jerusalem on November 1, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

After over a month of national lockdown that succeeded in curbing high infection rates, but also paralyzed much of the economy and public life, the government has struggled to agree on how to ease the restrictions, with pressure from some ministers to quickly lift the closure facing opposition by other cabinet members — among them the prime minister — who want to move more cautiously.

So far preschools, grades 1-4, hairdressers and beauty salons have been released from the closure, while the government wrangles with opening other small businesses and street stores.

However, the coronavirus cabinet was presented with figures on Monday that showed Israel’s basic reproduction number, or the rate of new cases stemming from each coronavirus infection, stood at 0.8, the level at which health officials have previously said they would recommend scaling back some of the steps taken to ease the lockdown.

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