Virus test positivity rate drops to 1.8%, the lowest level in Israel since June

630 new cases diagnosed in Israel on Thursday; 410 in serious condition with 190 of them on ventilators

Medical workers during a testing drive for teachers ahead of the reopening of some grades, Tel Aviv, October 28, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Medical workers during a testing drive for teachers ahead of the reopening of some grades, Tel Aviv, October 28, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said on Friday morning that 1.8 percent of the 36,318 tests carried out on Thursday came back positive, the lowest positivity rate since June.

The general decline in number of tests over the past several weeks, however, has led to expressions of concern from health officials.

There were 630 new coronavirus cases confirmed on Thursday, taking the total number of infections in Israel since the start of the pandemic to 313,590.

According to ministry data, there were 11,254 active cases in Israel, including 410 COVID-19 patients in serious condition — 190 of them on ventilators — and 101 in moderate condition.

There were three additional fatalities overnight, taking the national death toll to 2,511.

Government ministers decided early Friday to move forward the reopening of synagogues to Sunday, but said that street stores must remain closed until at least November 8, as Israel gradually rolls back its coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews during morning prayer in a synagogue during a nationwide three-week lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in Bnei Brak, Sept 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Synagogues were supposed to remain closed until November 15, according to the original reopening plan. The number of worshipers will be limited to 10 indoors, and 20 outdoors.

The reopening of street stores will only go forward if infection rates are below 500 per day.

If daily cases remain above 500, shops will only reopen on November 15, the date set in the initial reopening plan.

Malls and market areas are likely to remain shuttered, the Ynet news site reported.

The coronavirus cabinet also decided that vacation rental homes can resume business on Sunday, but that only nuclear families can stay in the homes, and that renters cannot use public pools or dining halls in the homes’ communities.

View of the closed Hadar shopping mall in Jerusalem on October 12, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)

Hairdressers and beauty parlors will also be allowed to reopen on Sunday, as well as “one-on-one” activities, including driving lessons and personal fitness training, Channel 12 reported.

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu said during the meeting that seven cities with high infection rates, mostly with majority Arab populations, may need to remain on lockdown: Taybeh, Kafr Kanna, Manar, Deir al-Asad, Kafr Kassem, Kafr Qara and I’billin.

Israel began a month-long lockdown on September 18 that succeeded in bringing down surging infection rates but that also paralyzed much of the economy and public life, as well as shuttering the entire education system.

On Thursday the cabinet decided to reopen schools for grades 1-4 on Sunday. Schools have been closed since September 18, but preschools and daycares were allowed to reopen on October 18.

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