Number of new daily COVID cases falls below 1,000

Health Ministry says 2.8% of tests on Thursday came back positive; government body warns of possible ‘slowdown’ in declining infections due to easing of lockdown

Israelis shop at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on October 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israelis shop at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on October 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said 895 new coronavirus cases were confirmed Thursday, with the drop in the infection rate appearing to continue after a month-long national lockdown.

According to figures released Friday morning, the number of active cases further declined to 17,279, out of 308,572 infections confirmed since the pandemic began. There were 570 people in serious condition, with 223 on ventilators. Another 154 were in moderate condition and the rest had mild or no symptoms.

The death toll remained at 2,319.

While Thursday marked the first time since July 3 that fewer than 1,000 new cases were recorded on a weekday (excluding Sunday), the number of tests performed dropped to 32,290, after averaging around 40,000 per day on Monday through Wednesday. Testing rates typically fall off on weekends and holidays.

The positive test rate Thursday was 2.8%.

A medical worker in protective clothing tests a man for coronavirus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on October 21, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

In its daily report, the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center said that although the number of new cases and positive test rate were continuing to decline, the infection rate remained high in absolute terms.

The center, which operates under the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate in cooperation with the Health Ministry, also said the number of fatalities and patients in serious condition was down from the week before.

However, it warned of a likely “slowdown in the improving trend observed in recent weeks” after the lockdown began to be rolled back this week, predicting this will show up in infection rates next week.

An illustrative photo of an emty classroom at a school in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hakerem on October 21 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

On Sunday, preschools and kindergartens were allowed to reopen and a one-kilometer limit on travel for non-essential needs was also lifted, while restaurants were allowed to offer takeout rather than just delivery.

The so-called coronavirus cabinet met Wednesday to discuss allowing shops and more schools to reopen, but pushed off a decision until next week. The full cabinet is set to convene on Sunday morning and reach a final decision on Monday.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Netanyahu called for the Health Ministry’s nine-stage plan for lifting the lockdown to be shrunk to five phases, but health officials expressed concerns about shortening the reopening.

Following the initial coronavirus lockdown in the spring, health officials abandoned their staged plan amid pressure from ministers and opened nearly all schools and businesses at once in early May. That move has been blamed for playing a part in runaway infection rates over the summer that led to the second national lockdown.

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