Number of seriously ill COVID patients jumps past 200 as pandemic surges

Positive test rate up to 11.71% — highest since October 2020 — as 17,521 new cases diagnosed on Saturday; over 500 hospitalized

Magen David workers take COVID-19 rapid antigen test at a testing center in Jerusalem, on January 5, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Magen David workers take COVID-19 rapid antigen test at a testing center in Jerusalem, on January 5, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The number of COVID-19 patients listed as seriously ill rose to 206, according to Health Ministry figures released Sunday that showed case tallies continuing to mount.

While the daily tally of 17,521 new cases Saturday was a slight dip from Friday’s record-setting 18,831 new cases, the test positivity rate climbed to levels not seen in over a year. Case numbers generally dip over the weekend due to vagaries in testing.

Sunday’s tally of serious cases of COVID-19 was nearly double the 112 patients in serious condition recorded a week earlier. The number of hospitalizations rose from 338 a week ago to 524.

The positivity rate of 11.71 percent was the highest recorded since October 2020, though it came as Israel began accepting less-accurate rapid antigen tests, while saving the better PCR tests for over-60s and the unvaccinated, to reduce crowding at testing stations.

Testing is usually lower over the weekend but Saturday’s figure for new cases was the highest ever for that day of the week since the start of the pandemic in early 2020 and was over four times higher than the 4,231 recorded the week before. The previous record for a Saturday was apparently on September 11 when 10,292 new cases were found.

With the new cases, there were 115,010 active patients in the country.

The death toll remained at 8,259, with no change since Friday.

Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospitall in Jerusalem on December 27, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Officials have said that Israel is dealing with both the faster-spreading Omicron and more dangerous Delta strains of the virus, expressing fears that the health system could get overwhelmed with a rise in flu cases taking up room in hospitals as well.

The virus transmission number, R, indicating how many people each infected person passes the virus on to, rose to 1.97 after having dipped slightly the day before. The transmission rate is based on data from 10 days earlier and values above 1 show infections are spreading — the higher the number, the greater the rate.

In the grip of a fifth-wave of coronavirus infections, this time fueled by the highly infectious Omicron variant, Israel has seen record daily caseloads over the past few days.

Channel 12 news reported Saturday that crowds waiting for PCR tests had been reduced drastically due to new testing regulations. However, long lines were now being reported at antigen testing stations around the country as the younger population simply shifted to those.

Vaccinated individuals can also conduct rapid antigen tests at home, but there have been severe shortages in test kits in recent days as Israelis raided shops for them.

Medical workers and family members at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem receive their fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on January 6, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The government has urged the public to vaccinate and shots are available to all those aged five or above.

Of Israel’s 9.5 million population, 6,621,321 have had at least one vaccine dose, Sunday’s Health Ministry figures showed. Of those, 5,963,196 have also had a second shot and 4,322,783 a booster as well.

Last week Israel begin distributing extra fourth boosters to its elderly population and health workers, the first country in the world to do so. As of Saturday, 254,000 people had gotten the second booster.

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