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Serious COVID cases dip below 800 as death toll nears 10,000

As fifth coronavirus wave appears to wane and travel restrictions are eased, health minister says lifting mask mandate is not high on his agenda

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Workers at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed wear safety gear in the hospital's COVID ward, on February 15, 2022. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Workers at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed wear safety gear in the hospital's COVID ward, on February 15, 2022. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Serious cases of coronavirus in Israel dropped below 800 on Monday for the first time in a month, according to the latest statistics from the Health Ministry.

In a further sign of the fifth COVID-19 wave slowly abating, the ministry said that the number of new serious cases over the past week stood at 552, a drop of 35.1 percent from a week earlier.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 118,623 active COVID cases in the country, with 1,657 of them hospitalized, 772 of those in serious condition and 248 of them on ventilators.

Meanwhile, the overall COVID death toll since the start of the pandemic stood at 9,990, approaching a solemn benchmark of 10,000 fatalities. In the past week, the ministry said, 222 people with COVID died, a 46% drop over a week earlier.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday morning that “life is getting back on track” in Israel with the seeming end of the fifth wave.

On Sunday evening, ministers voted to majorly ease travel restrictions, including allowing in unvaccinated tourists for the first time in close to two years.

Travelers in the departure hall at Ben Gurion International Airport, on February 13, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Under the new guidelines, which will take effect over the coming weeks, Israelis will no longer need to submit a negative pre-flight COVID test, and students in schools will no longer be subject to weekly COVID tests.

“At the moment, the situation in Israel is good,” Bennett said Sunday evening. “This is the result of correct and dynamic management; therefore, we are now opening up. At the same time, we will continue to closely monitor the situation and in the event of a new variant, we will again act quickly.”

Bennett and health advisers are reportedly weighing the potential of lifting the indoor mask mandate in the coming weeks, but no final decision has been made.

At a Meretz faction meeting on Monday, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said he is not rushing to remove masks.

“I’m not burning to give up on masks,” Horowitz said. “Masks are not a restriction, they will be with us for a while longer.”

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