Serious COVID cases pass 500 for 1st time since March as outbreak surges

Those seriously ill far more likely to be unvaccinated, data shows; positive test rate hits 5.38%

A hospital worker treats a patient at Ziv Medical Center's coronavirus ward, in the northern city of Safed, on August 11, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)
A hospital worker treats a patient at Ziv Medical Center's coronavirus ward, in the northern city of Safed, on August 11, 2021. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The number of serious COVID-19 cases in Israel passed 500 on Sunday for the first time since March, amid the current surging coronavirus outbreak.

Health Ministry data showed there were 524 patients in serious condition, with 84 of them on ventilators. In total there were 877 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

Health Ministry data showed that the rate of serious cases was far higher among unvaccinated Israelis aged 60-plus, who constituted 134.1 people per 100,000 in serious condition on Saturday; among the vaccinated the figure was 20, and among the partially vaccinated 35.5.

There were 4,145 new cases recorded on Saturday, with testing rates lower on weekends. A further 1,237 cases were diagnosed since midnight.

The ministry said that 78,897 people were tested on Saturday, with the positivity rate rising to 5.38%.

Seven deaths on Saturday and a further fatality since midnight took the reported death toll since the start of the pandemic to 6,632.

A medic from Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency service administers a booster shot of the coronavirus vaccine to a woman in Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 14, 2021 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Amid rising cases, last month Israel became the first country in the world to begin administering booster shots to those over 60, and was a pioneer once again on Friday as it began giving third doses to people older than 50.

As of Sunday morning, 866,315 people in Israel had received the booster, while out of Israel’s population of some 9.3 million, over 5.8 million had received at least one vaccine dose, and more than 5.4 million had gotten two.

However, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned Saturday that Israel was facing “tough days” ahead as it deals with the resurgence in coronavirus cases, though he pushed back on calls for another national lockdown to stem the rising morbidity.

“Everything possible is being done to avoid lockdowns, which are destructive tools for our livelihood, for the economy, and for the education of our children,” he wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. “Lockdowns are a last resort.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, center, watches a resident of the Migdal Nofim retirement home in Jerusalem be tested for the coronavirus on July 27, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Health officials have warned the daily new caseload could reach 10,000 in the coming week.

Amid the rising number of hospitalizations, Shamir Medical Center in Be’er Ya’akov, formerly known as Assaf Harofeh, stopped accepting patients as its coronavirus wards filled up, Channel 13 news reported on Saturday.

The network said that new COVID patients requiring hospitalization were diverted away from hospitals in central Israel — including Shamir, and Kaplan in Rehovot — to hospitals in Jerusalem that were less packed.

Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood was expected to open a new coronavirus ward to help cope with the increase in cases, the Kan public broadcaster said Sunday.

Health officials reportedly showed Bennett figures on Wednesday that forecasted that, within a month, Israel could see hospitals overrun with 4,800 coronavirus patients, half of whom would be suffering from serious bouts of COVID-19.

A medical professional takes samples from a woman for a coronavirus test in Rabin Square in the city of Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 14, 2021 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

With Israel racing to contain a fast-spreading wave of coronavirus infections, the military is reportedly set to draft hundreds more reservists to aid with the efforts, while the government announced that it would expand a new nighttime vaccination drive to 10 major cities starting Sunday night.

The Health Ministry helped put together the overnight vaccine drive, as it aimed to boost immunization rates amid a resurgence in COVID cases — driven by the super-contagious Delta variant of the virus — that has led the government to reimpose restrictions.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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