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299 people have died from COVID complications in past week

Israel’s 1,263 serious COVID cases break new record, even as transmission rate ebbs

Serious illness much more likely for unvaccinated; coronavirus czar says Omicron-fueled wave not over yet; positive test rate of 28.79% highest since start of pandemic

Ziv medical staff wear safety gear as they work in a coronavirus ward of the hospital in Safed, on February 1, 2022. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Ziv medical staff wear safety gear as they work in a coronavirus ward of the hospital in Safed, on February 1, 2022. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The number of patients hospitalized in Israel in serious condition as a result of COVID-19 continued to rise on Sunday, reaching 1,263, the highest number since the onset of the pandemic, according to new Health Ministry data.

Before rising to 1,229 on Saturday, the last time the number of serious patients was close to that figure was in January 2021, with 1,193 serious COVID-19 cases. The number of serious patients has been steadily rising since late December — when there were just 75 such cases — as a result of the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

The ministry said serious cases were much more common among the unvaccinated: Among unvaccinated patients aged 60 and up, there were 415.6 serious cases per 100,000 people compared with 35.9 for their vaccinated counterparts.

Some 37,985 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed on Saturday, with a test positivity rate of 28.79% — also the highest rate since the beginning of the pandemic. Experts say the true number of cases is probably much higher and testing is more limited on weekends. On Saturday, over 146,000 PCR and antigen tests were conducted, down from around 400,000 daily tests a week ago.

In total, there were 2,888 people hospitalized, of whom 366 were in critical condition, according to ministry data.

The transmission rate (measuring the average number of people each infected person spreads the virus to) continued to fall, reaching a value of 0.86.

The transmission rate is based on data from 10 days earlier and any value below 1 shows that the pandemic is shrinking. In December, the R-value shot up to 2.12, but has since been on the decline.

The death toll stood at 9,139, with at least 41 new fatalities recorded over the weekend and revised data adding dozens more who died in recent weeks. According to ministry data, 299 people have died from COVID-19 complications in the past week.

Coronavirus czar Salman Zarka told Kan public radio on Sunday morning that the pandemic is currently stable in Israel, citing the low transmission rate, but added “we have not reached the end of the virus wave.”

Coronavirus czar Prof. Salman Zarka seen during a press conference near Tel Aviv, on November 9, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

However, starting Monday, Israelis will no longer have to flash their Green Passes — which show proof of vaccination, recovery, or a recent negative COVID-19 test — to enter restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and hotels.

A newly updated Green Pass will be valid for all those who have either recovered or received two doses of the vaccine in the past four months, and anyone who has received three or four doses at any time.

Proof of a valid Green Pass will still be required upon entry to indoor sites where there is a higher risk for infection, such as event halls and dance clubs.

Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash said the decision to nix the Green Pass in most cases was due to its lack of “effectiveness.”

“Because Omicron also infects the vaccinated, the [Green] Pass has lost effectiveness in most places and we decided to reduce its use to only high-risk places. It is part of the trend of living with the virus,” he told Army Radio.

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