New COVID cases surge past 6,000 for 1st time since February; almost 400 serious

Coronavirus czar says country ‘is at a critical point for all of us’; government vaccine adviser says those who received 3rd doses already showing high antibody levels

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

A health worker collects a swab sample from a kid to test for COVID-19, at a coronavirus testing center, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 9, 2021 (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
A health worker collects a swab sample from a kid to test for COVID-19, at a coronavirus testing center, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 9, 2021 (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

More than 6,000 people in Israel tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday, a daily figure not seen in the country since early February. Additionally, the number of serious cases edged closer to 400, as the government continues to weigh a series of new measures.

Out of 130,669 tests carried out on Monday, 6,275 came back positive, for a positivity rate of 4.84% — the highest rate in Israel since early March.

As of Tuesday morning, 648 people with COVID are hospitalized, with 394 in serious condition, including 64 on ventilators.

Government coronavirus czar Salman Zarka, spearheading the national efforts in the pandemic, said Tuesday morning that the new figures were alarming.

“We’re at a critical point for all of us,” he told Kan radio. “For our health, for our lives and for the economy.”

Zarka called on the population to get the COVID vaccine, and for those over 60 to receive a third booster dose, saying it was the best way to avoid a possible future lockdown.

Director of the Ziv Medical Center Salman Zarka attends a ceremony in the Northern Israeli city of Safed, on February 25, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

“I want to restore a little optimism for all of us, and call on the public to get vaccinated, to wear masks and to keep to the Green Pass regulations,” said Zarka, adding that the government will weigh limiting the sizes of both indoor and outdoor gatherings as cases rise.

On August 1, Israel rolled out a campaign to give third booster doses of the vaccine to all Israelis over age 60 who have has more than five months pass since their second dose. As of Tuesday morning, 577,899 Israelis had received a third shot.

An Israeli over age 60 receives a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit vaccination center on August 8, 2021 in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prof. Galia Rahav, the head of Sheba Medical Center’s Infectious Disease Unit and Laboratory and an adviser to the government’s vaccine panel, told the Ynet news outlet on Tuesday morning that those who have received a third dose are already showing high levels of antibodies.

“I very much believe in the third vaccine dose,” she said. “We’re definitely seeing very encouraging results, where people are developing antibodies nicely after the third dose.” She predicted that the booster shots will lower the number of serious cases.

Prof. Galia Rahav, Head of Sheba Medical Center’s Infectious Disease Unit and Laboratory, looks at data on COVID-19 patients (courtesy of Sheba Medical Center)

Prof. Eran Segal, a senior adviser to the government coronavirus cabinet, echoed that sentiment.

“There is definitely a possibility that we will start to see a slowdown in the coming weeks,” he told Army Radio on Tuesday morning. “The third dose will help lower the rate of the most severely ill among the infected.”

Segal noted that the high rate of positive cases will hopefully soon turn to a high recovery rate, which will also assist in building immunity.

“We are accumulating a high rate of those recovered,” he said. “If we count 20,000 infected who were documented, the real number is probably around 50,000.”

Travelers are seen wearing face masks at Ben Gurion International Airport, on August 5, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/ FLASH90)

As of Sunday, the full Green Pass was reinstated in Israel, limiting most public gatherings — both indoor and outdoor — to those who are vaccinated, recovered or present a negative COVID test, with exemptions until August 20 for those aged 12 and under.

In addition to local measures, Israel is also working to stem the tide of new cases and variants arriving from overseas with strict regulations for incoming travelers — both vaccinated and non-vaccinated — from almost all countries. Home quarantine will be required for 14 days, or seven days with two negative tests, starting Monday.

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