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Israel’s COVID transmission rate rises above 1 for first time in two months

But Health Ministry figures show serious cases continue to decline — to barely 100 — and officials are said to not be overly concerned

A Magen David Adom health worker take a swab sample from at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing complex in Jerusalem, on March 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom health worker take a swab sample from at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing complex in Jerusalem, on March 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The spread of coronavirus is increasing in Israel for the first time in nearly two months, Health Ministry figures released Friday showed.

According to the ministry, the so-called R number stood at 1.03, indicating the rate of contagion is accelerating. The figure measures how many people each coronavirus carrier infects on average, with any reading above 1 meaning the spread of COVID-19 is increasing.

The R-rate was last over 1 on March 22, following two weeks in which rising morbidity figures fueled concerns of a renewed outbreak.

Health Ministry officials believe the latest rise is a “hump” of the last major outbreak and are not treating it as a fresh wave, the Walla news site reported.

Along with the increase in the R number, ministry data showed average new weekly cases were up by 9.6 percent compared to the previous seven-day period, while the number of tests performed increased by 18.6%.

There were 16,090 active infections as of Friday morning, out of 4,103,242 verified cases in Israel since the start of the pandemic.

However, serious infections further declined to 103, including 48 people on ventilators.

The death toll stood at 10,749, with two fatalities recorded in the past week — an 87.5% drop.

Health Ministry statistics also showed that over 6.7 million Israelis have received at least one vaccine dose and more than 6.1 million got both shots. Additionally, nearly 4.5 million people have been administered a booster shot, including 806,266 who received a fourth dose.

An arriving passenger at Ben Gurion International Airport, on November 28, 2021, heads to a mandatory COVID test. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

On Thursday, a television report said Israel is expected to soon stop requiring passengers to wear masks aboard airplanes, with the European Union set to drop its mask mandate during air travel next week.

Israel lifted its indoor mask mandate on April 24, leaving the requirement for face coverings only in hospitals, old age homes and aircraft.

Scrapping onboard masking would lift one of the few remaining COVID restrictions still in place in Israel. But flights from Tel Aviv to certain destinations could still require face masks depending on other international regulations.

Beginning May 20, passengers who land at Ben Gurion Airport will no longer be required to undergo a PCR test before exiting the airport. Israelis who fly to Israel have not had to submit any test before boarding for several months now; foreigners must still show a negative test result, but it can be either a PCR or an antigen test.

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