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Just 2,255 virus cases found Tuesday with positive test rate lowest since July

Daily tally nears 2,000 mark cited as threshold below which lockdown can start being eased; only 5.4% of tests positive, weeks after figure reached 15%

Shaare Zedek Medical team member wearing protective gear takes a swab to test for the coronavirus outside the coronavirus unit in Jerusalem on October 12, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Shaare Zedek Medical team member wearing protective gear takes a swab to test for the coronavirus outside the coronavirus unit in Jerusalem on October 12, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The rate of positive coronavirus test results is the lowest since July, the Health Ministry said Wednesday morning, with the daily number of new infections nearing the 2,000 mark, below which authorities have determined that the current lockdown measures can start to be eased.

The ministry said just 2,255 cases were confirmed throughout Tuesday, bringing the country’s total tally since the start of the pandemic to 297,274, of which 48,015 are active cases. Less than three weeks ago, daily infections were above 8,000.

According to the data, 41,536 test results came back Tuesday, 5.4 percent of which were positive. That figure hovered around 15% in late September and has since made a dramatic drop. It had been between 7% and 8% for the past week, as the nationwide lockdown appeared to curb the spread of the virus

However, some suspect that a partial explanation is that some ultra-Orthodox areas — where morbidity rates are higher — have started conducting fewer tests.

The death toll stood at 2,055, according to the ministry. The number of serious patients was at 808, including 240 on ventilators. Another 263 were in moderate condition and the rest had mild or no symptoms.

A medical worker in the coronavirus unit at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, on July 28, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The reported threshold for the easing of restrictions is 2,000 new cases per day. Saturday and Sunday both saw drastically lower case tallies, 907 and 1,624 respectively, but those days also saw a significant fall-off in testing levels.

The so-called coronavirus cabinet unanimously voted Tuesday night to extend the ongoing lockdown until Sunday night, pushing off any decision to start easing the sweeping restrictions now in effect across the country.

The lockdown, Israel’s second since the pandemic began, started on September 18 and had been slated to end automatically Wednesday.

The Health Ministry has a phased exit plan spanning four months that would see the country gradually return to normal activity, starting with increased freedom of movement and eventually reopening daycares, schools, synagogues, malls and other venues. The plan would only kick into gear when the national daily tally dips below 2,000 cases and the person-to-person spread is slowed.

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