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Positive virus test rate continues to drop as COVID spread appears to slow

Of the 46,350 checks done Wednesday, just 8.9% came back showing infection, matching a figure not seen for last three weeks; death toll rises to 1.846

A man wearing face mask rides his bicycle next to boats with face masks hanging on them during a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, at Jaffa port near Tel Aviv, October 7, 2020. (Oded Balilty/AP)
A man wearing face mask rides his bicycle next to boats with face masks hanging on them during a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, at Jaffa port near Tel Aviv, October 7, 2020. (Oded Balilty/AP)

Health Ministry figures released on Thursday morning appeared to confirm a slowdown in the rate of coronavirus infection spread across the country, with the percentage of positive test results at its lowest for weeks.

Of the 46,350 virus tests completed on Wednesday, just 8.9% were positive, the lowest number seen since September 16.

The results appeared to indicate that a three-week lockdown was having the intended effect of bringing the country’s infection rate under control, despite widespread refusal in some communities to conform with rules forbidding gatherings. Officials have said the numbers are cause for “cautious optimism,” but maintain that the lockdown will remain in place until at least mid-October out of fears the trend may reverse.

According to Health Ministry figures, there were 4,129 virus cases confirmed on Wednesday, bringing the number of active cases to 61,639, the lowest number since September 25. Of the 1,632 hospitalized patients, 878 were in serious condition with 240 on ventilators. The death toll was at 1,824 on Thursday moring, but later rose to 1,846.

Since the beginning of the outbreak 283,532 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, of which 220,046 have recovered.

Israel has seen the share of tests coming back positive slacken steadily since spiking to over 15 percent in the last days of September.

Medical staff wearing protective clothes move the body of a patient who died from complications of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, at the coronavirus ward of the Ziv Medical Center in the northern city of Safed, on October 7, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The positivity rate is seen as a key metric for measuring the spread of the virus, given uneven day-to-day total testing numbers.

For the first three weeks of September, the positivity rate had hovered between 7% and 10% before beginning to spike on September 20.

On Tuesday, the positivity rate hit 10.5%, at the time the lowest number since the 9.1% recorded on September 19.

While the number of new infections and positive test rates have dropped since a record 9,053 cases were recorded last Wednesday, so too has the number of daily tests, likely due to the holiday period. Testing numbers often fall off considerably on weekends or holidays.

Police face protesters against the government and coronavirus lockdown measures in Tel Aviv on October 6, 2020. (Gili Yaari /Flash90)

The current lockdown, Israel’s second since the pandemic started, began on September 18 before Rosh Hashanah and was tightened a week later. It is currently set to end on October 14.

It has been marked by clashes between enforcing police and ultra-Orthodox protesters, as well as between police and anti-government protesters who are calling for Netanyahu’s resignation due to his ongoing corruption trial and the government’s handling of the virus outbreak.

Ministers are scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss either easing some of the restrictions or extending the measures. The meeting had been set for Monday but the date was set back by one day, drawing anger from some lawmakers, who are pushing for a swift reopening of the economy.

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