Serious COVID cases dip to lowest level in over a month

Slowdown in new cases of serious morbidity and decline in positive test rate indicate Israel’s fourth coronavirus wave could be waning

People wearing face masks shop at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, on September 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
People wearing face masks shop at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, on September 29, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Serious coronavirus cases fell to their lowest mark in over a month on Thursday, signaling Israel’s fourth major wave of morbidity could be abating.

The number of patients hospitalized in serious condition with COVID-19 complications peaked in late August at 766 and then plateaued, but over the past week has fallen by 100, with Health Ministry figures showing a current tally of 619 serious cases.

There has also been a decline in new serious cases per day, which reached as high as 112 on September 12 before gradually falling, with 56 recorded on Wednesday.

However, the number of critical patients requiring an ECMO machine has continued to climb to record levels.

In other signs the current outbreak may be on the wane, the percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive has fallen over the past week, and the number of new daily cases per day has dipped after hitting a pandemic high at the start of September.

According to the latest Health Ministry figures, 3,591 new infections were confirmed on Wednesday and another 3,079 since midnight, with active cases standing at 46,503. There have been 1,281,776 verified cases in Israel since the pandemic began.

A man receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary Clalit Health Services facility in Jerusalem, on September 30, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry’s website showed the R-number, the basic reproduction rate of the virus, was 0.72. The figure represents how many people someone with COVID will infect on average, with a rate over 1 signaling that the spread of the virus is accelerating, and any reading below 1 suggesting that morbidity is receding.

In a grim reminder of the pandemic’s toll, the ministry figures showed that over 700 Israelis died of COVID in September. Comparatively, in August, 570 Israelis with COVID died, and in July, the figure stood at just 44.

Since the start of the outbreak, 7,761 Israelis with the coronavirus have died.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry said that it was aware of only 19 people reporting “significant” side effects after receiving a third vaccine dose. As of Thursday evening, 3,363,118 Israelis have been given a booster shot, while 6,113,771 have received at least one dose and 5,636,404 have gotten two doses.

The ministry said that, as of the start of the week, there were 11 reported cases of myocarditis — inflammation of the heart muscle — among the over 331,000 Israelis between the ages of 12 and 15 who have received at least one vaccine shot, which it described as an “insignificant rate.”

It also said that it assumed there was underreporting of light side effects, such as fatigue and pain where the shot was administered.

Also Thursday, the Kan public broadcaster reported that the Health Ministry was set to begin trying out new spit tests for detecting coronavirus, which do not require the use of swabs.

To ensure the accuracy of the tests, the ministry will reportedly start by holding trials with dozens of volunteers who will undergo both PCR and spit tests. If the latter turn out to be accurate, the ministry is expected to begin using them for children and the elderly, according to the report.

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