There were fewer than 8,000 coronavirus tests carried out in Israel on Sunday, the Health Ministry announced late in the evening, a significant drop compared to testing levels over recent weeks during the renewed outbreak of the pandemic.
According to the ministry, there were only 11,343 tests carried out Sunday as of just after 10 p.m., with a positivity rate of 9.2 percent. The numbers mark a significant drop-off from previous days, which have seen between 20,000 and 30,000 tests daily.
On Thursday 29,062 tests were carried out, on Friday there were 22,687 tests and Saturday saw 14,616 people get tested.
Testing levels typically drop significantly over the weekend but previously had risen again on Sundays.
The ministry has not offered an explanation for the steady fall in testing over the past few days.
Widespread testing combined with swift epidemiological assessments is seen as a key strategy in curbing the virus spread by ensuring those who may have been exposed to the virus enter self-quarantine before they can possibly infect others.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that the new coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu would be given “all the authority” to curb the COVID-19 outbreak and will have full authority over testing, epidemiological investigations and quarantines. It was unclear if the fall in testing levels was linked to Gamzu’s recent appointment.
The national death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 473 on Monday morning as the Health Ministry announced three more deaths since its the previous evening’s update.
There were 317 patients in serious condition, with 4104 of them on ventilators. A further 179 people were in moderate condition and the remainder had mild symptoms or were asymptomatic, the ministry said.
Four hospitals were over their capacity for coronavirus patients, ministry figures showed — Jerusalem’s Shaare Tzedek and Hadassah Ein Kerem, Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center and the Shamir Medical Center in Be’er Yaakov. The Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan was at 90% capacity for people sick with COVID-19.
Despite the rise in the number of coronavirus infections, the percentage of those killed by COVID-19 is markedly lower, Ran Balicer, an epidemiologist and executive at Clalit Health Services, told Channel 12 news on Saturday. While the death rate was 2.1% during the initial outbreak, it is now 0.8%, Balicer said.
Balicer said possible explanations for this are that authorities are now detecting a larger number of asymptomatic carriers and are doing a better job of protecting at-risk groups. Hospitals have also improved their ability to treat those sick with the virus, he added.
On Friday The New York Times ranked Israel sixth in the world in new daily cases per million people, with a little under 200 a day at that ratio. The US was just above it at a little over 200 per million, followed by South Africa, Panama, Bahrain and Oman, which led the pack with some 300 cases a day per million residents.
Experts have blamed a too-speedy reopening and the lack of an effective contact tracing program as main factors in the renewed spread of the virus in Israel.