Serious cases dip along with transmission rate, indicating outbreak shrinking

688 patients in serious condition; coronavirus czar says potential Passover restrictions dependent on morbidity data in coming days

Medical workers collect samples for coronavirus testing in the northern Israeli city of Safed on February 8, 2021 (David Cohen/Flash90)
Medical workers collect samples for coronavirus testing in the northern Israeli city of Safed on February 8, 2021 (David Cohen/Flash90)

The number of serious cases of COVID-19 in Israel and the transmission rate are both continuing to fall, Health Ministry data released Tuesday morning showed.

According to the Health Ministry there were 688 people in serious condition, a drop of 45 from the previous day. There were 212 patients on ventilators and 264 people defined as critical.

Monday saw 19 more people die of COVID-19 and with one further fatality on Tuesday morning, the toll stood at 5,922 since the start of the pandemic.

In total, 806,841 people in Israel have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. There are currently 38,650 active patients.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man receives his second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a coronavirus vaccination center set up at a synagogue in Bnei Brak, Israel, March 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The positive test rate for the virus was four percent out of 95,505 tests carried out on Monday, with 3,662 new cases diagnosed. Just a month ago, the daily caseload of new infections was over 7,000.

So far 4,995,253 people have received the first dose of their vaccination, and 3,859,111 have had the second as well, ministry figures published Tuesday showed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein attended the vaccination on Monday of the woman said to be Israel’s five millionth person to receive the inoculation. It was not clear why there was a discrepancy in the figures.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein (second right) during a visit at a Leumit Covid-19 vaccination center in Tel Aviv, with the 5 millionth Israeli who received a vaccination, March 8, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Data released Tuesday showed that the virus reproduction number fell further, dipping to 0.95.

The calculation of the figure, which shows how many people each virus patient infects, represents the situation 10 days before the day it is published. On Friday, it was given as 1.01 indicating that the virus outbreak was increasing. A value below one shows that it is shrinking.

The figures, released 12 days after the start of Purim, were a sign of hope that the mass gatherings held in some parts of the country during the holiday in defiance of regulations, hadn’t caused a spike in infections.

Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash at the coronavirus department at Ziv hospital in Safed,NNorthern Israel, December 24, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said Tuesday that data over the coming days would determine the size of permitted gatherings for Passover celebrations at the end of the month.

Ash told the Kan public broadcaster that there was still a chance of further restrictions but it depended on the level of morbidity “and at the moment [it looks] good.”

Ash also said that he believed that enforcement of restrictions should be focused on quarantine and the use of green passes for vaccinated people, rather than the wearing of masks outside.

The comments came after Kan reported that Israel currently has no plans to adopt US guidelines that relax mask-wearing requirements for people who are fully vaccinated. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines on Monday, saying that fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing.

Women sit in a restaurant as restrictions are eased following months of government-imposed shutdowns, in Tel Aviv, March 7, 2021 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The promising figures come as Israel embarks on the next exit phase from its third nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

Much of the economy reopened Sunday as the lockdown was further rolled back, including restaurants, cafes, school grades 7-10 in low- to medium-infection areas, event venues, attractions and hotels. Higher education institutions and religious seminaries were opened to vaccinated or recovered people and rules on gatherings and worship were relaxed.

The cabinet also decided to ease restrictions on international travel and sidelined a highly controversial committee that was deciding who could enter or leave the country while the airport remained largely shuttered.

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