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Serious COVID cases pass 200 for first time since mid-April

2,424 infections cases recorded Friday, in new high during current wave; expert: basic reproduction number likely lower than official figure, suggesting spread of virus is slowing

A healthcare worker takes a swab sample from a man at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site in the Golan Heights, on July 30, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
A healthcare worker takes a swab sample from a man at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site in the Golan Heights, on July 30, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The total number of serious COVID-19 cases in Israel passed 200 for the first time since mid-April on Saturday, after a new high in daily cases during the current coronavirus outbreak was recorded the day before.

According to Health Ministry figures Satrday night, there were 201 serious cases, up 22 from midnight. Of those, 37 people were listed as being in critical condition, with 31 of them on ventilators.

The last time there were over 200 serious patients in Israel was on April 14.

The death toll ticked up to 6,473, with three more fatalities on the day.

The ministry reported that 2,435 cases were confirmed on Friday, with 2.49 percent of the over 103,633 tests performed coming back positive.

Along with another 1,589 infections since midnight, there have been 873,827 confirmed COVID cases in the country since the pandemic began.

Earlier, a health expert advising the government on its pandemic response tweeted that 67% more cases were recorded in the past week compared to the week before.

Eran Segal noted the number of tests performed in the past week also rose by 25%, nearing the record levels set during the COVID-19 wave over the winter, when significantly more infections, serious cases and deaths were recorded per day. The current positive test rate has also been lower than it was during that outbreak.

“This is good because more confirmed [cases] are being located, but this also explains part of this rise [in infections],” said Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

He also said the basic reproduction number — the number of new cases stemming from each coronavirus infection — was also likely closer to 1.2%, below the Health Ministry’s most recently reported figure of 1.34%, which would indicate the spread of the virus was slowing.

“A 15% decline in contacts can lead to a halt,” Segal said.

“The way to there: A third dose and vaccinating the young,” he added.

Segal’s comments came a day after Israel began administering third shots of the vaccines to people over 60, making Israel the first country in the world to do so.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told healthcare executives that the government’s goal is to vaccinate 1.5 million Israelis above the age of 60 in the next eight days.

“This is not a long operation, it will be fast and furious,” the Meuhedet HMO’s chief executive officer Sigal Rosenberg told the Ynet news site on Friday, explaining that another goal of the vaccine drive is to relieve hospitals of pressure in the coming weeks and prevent them from being overrun with elderly coronavirus patients.

Israel’s decision to begin administering third doses comes amid a struggle to contain a recent wave of coronavirus infections that has seen case numbers rocket, from just dozens a day a month ago to an average daily caseload of over 2,000 this week.

An Israeli man is seen after receiving a third Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the Israeli city of Ramat HaSharon, on July 30, 2021. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

Health Ministry director-general Nachman Ash said on Friday that no additional COVID restrictions were slated to be implemented in the immediate future, telling Channel 12 news that “the vaccine is our solution to make it out of the pandemic, so it is important that everyone who can goes and gets vaccinated.”

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