Positive test rate for virus drops to lowest level since November

Just 1.5% of coronavirus samples taken on Sunday were infected, Health Ministry figures show; nearly half the population now fully vaccinated

Medical technicians test passengers for COVID-19 at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on March 8, 2021. (Flash90)
Medical technicians test passengers for COVID-19 at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on March 8, 2021. (Flash90)

The positive test rate for the coronavirus in Israel has dropped to its lowest level in four months, according to Health Ministry figures released Monday.

The rate was at 1.5% on Sunday, a low not seen since November 17.

Since the start of the pandemic 828,239 people in Israel have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, with 15,765 active patients as of Monday morning. There were 529 people in serious condition from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, including 211 on ventilators.

Ten people died on Sunday, bringing the toll to 6,098.

A couple walk through the market in Jerusalem on March 22, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The virus’s basic reproduction number, representing the average number of people each virus carrier infects, was given as 0.62. Any figure under 1 means the outbreak is abating. The figure represents the situation as of 10 days ago due to the incubation period.

Israel’s morbidity rates have continued to steadily decline as the country has been rolling back virus restrictions, which at their peak shuttered the entire education system, public venues and most nonessential businesses.

Most of the education system has since reopened, along with much of the economy. Limited audiences have been allowed at sports and cultural venues, with the coronavirus cabinet recently approving increasing capacity at such events.

Recent infection figures represent a dramatic improvement over the past two months, credited chiefly to a successful vaccination campaign. The success comes despite more infectious virus variants proliferating and the gradual lifting of restrictions.

Ministry figures showed that so far 5,175,980 people, or 55.66 percent of the population, have received at least the first of two shots; of those, 4,563,045 have also had the second dose, amounting to 49.07% of the population. Over the past week vaccine doses were administered to some 50,000-100,000 people a day.

Israelis at a party for COVID-19 vaccinated guests in Kibbutz Ortal, northern Golan Heights, March 19, 2021 (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Authorities are aiming to vaccinate the entire over-16 population by the end of April.

In a key development Sunday, a Tel Aviv labor court ruled that a school can prevent unvaccinated employees who refuse to have regular COVID-19 tests from coming to work, determining that the children’s safety takes precedence over staff’s rights.

Earlier this month, the High Court issued a temporary injunction barring the Health Ministry from handing local authorities information on those who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine. The court also instructed state bodies and health providers to explain why legislation allowing the ministry to do so has not been scrapped.

The controversial law, which was approved last month by the Knesset, authorizes the Health Ministry to transfer data to municipalities and the Education Ministry for a three-month period. The legislation is aimed at encouraging the unvaccinated to be immunized and prohibits the use of the information for other purposes.

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