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Health minister: We'll have to learn to live with COVID

Monday infections surge to 501 in highest daily tally since March

New COVID cases continue to rise but number of serious patients ticks down slightly; over 20,000 people get vaccine shots

Israelis, some wearing face masks, walk through the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv on July 5, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israelis, some wearing face masks, walk through the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv on July 5, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Tuesday reported daily coronavirus cases topped 500 the day before, as the renewed spread of COVID-19 in Israel appeared to further accelerate.

According to ministry data, 501 new infections were confirmed Monday, the first time daily cases had been over 500 since March 26. The figure was also up markedly from the past few days, in which new infections hovered around 300.

Around half of the new cases were among schoolchildren, according to the Ynet news site.

The increase brought the number of active cases to 2,901, with 843,611 infections confirmed in Israel since the pandemic began.

Of the nearly 73,000 tests performed Monday, 0.7 percent came back positive, similar to the rate in recent days.

The Health Ministry said there were 73 people hospitalized with COVID complications, including 33 in serious condition, a slight drop from the day before.

The death toll was unchanged at 6,429.

An Israeli girl receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine from a Magen David Adom paramedic as part of a vaccination drive led by the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, July 5, 2021. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Under the ministry’s “traffic light” designation system for measuring the severity of morbidity in a given locale, the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim became “red,” signifying the highest level of infection. No communities had been listed as “red” on Monday.

In other changes, Tel Aviv was downgraded from “yellow” to “orange,” as cases continued to rise in the coastal hub.

Ministry figures also showed that over 20,000 people received a coronavirus vaccine shot on Monday, of whom more than 2,800 were getting their second dose. Out of Israel’s population of some 9.3 million, 5,663,255 people have gotten at least one shot and 5,180,662 have received two doses.

The Knesset Guard announced Tuesday that Labor MK Ram Shefa’s parliamentary assistant had been diagnosed with COVID-19 after being at the parliament building on Sunday.

The statement said vaccinated people who had come in close contact with her don’t have to quarantine, but recommended that they undergo a COVID-19 test within 72 hours. Unvaccinated people who met the assistant were asked not to come to work until further orders are issued by the Health Ministry.

The coronavirus cabinet was slated to meet Tuesday evening to weigh a series of new restrictions amid the rise in new cases. The resurgence of coronavirus in Israel has been largely attributed to the spread of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and is believed to be twice as contagious as the original COVID strain.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Tuesday during a conference at Ben-Gurion University that Israel was trying to battle the virus while avoiding “panic” and keeping restrictions to a minimum to enable the continuation of near-normal life.

“We understand the coronavirus won’t disappear anytime soon, and that another variant will emerge after the Delta strain,” Horowitz said. “We will have to learn to live with COVID-19 and control its morbidity. The policy I am seeking to implement looks not just several weeks ahead but a year into the future.”

On Monday, the Health Ministry released data showing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine appears to largely prevent hospitalization and serious cases, but is significantly less effective against preventing the spread of the Delta variant.

According to the ministry, the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing symptomatic COVID dropped by some 30 percentage points to 64%, as shown by the spread of the Delta variant. The data shows that during May, when the strain was less prevalent, the vaccine was 94.3% effective.

The data, however, also showed that the vaccine is still highly effective against preventing serious symptoms and hospitalization. During May, that figure stood at 98.2%, and during June, it was 93%.

Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine are pictured at a Magen David Adom mobile vaccination in Tel Aviv on July 5, 2021. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Amid the rise in COVID cases across the country, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Horowitz instructed the Health Ministry on Monday to promote two medical studies on the need for a third vaccine shot against the coronavirus, which they said will provide decision-makers with “vital information.”

The Health Ministry said Monday that it would recommend immunocompromised Israelis take a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine, even though the pharmaceutical company has not yet sanctioned the booster shot, but would not make a similar recommendation for the general population.

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