Serious COVID cases show signs of drop-off as Omicron wave ebbs

Turnaround marks first time figure has fallen since the beginning of the year; daily caseload, deaths also down; ministers to meet on abolishing Green Pass rules

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Medical staff wearing safety gear as they work in the coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on January 20, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Medical staff wearing safety gear as they work in the coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on January 20, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The number of COVID-19 patients in serious condition dropped to 1,084 Tuesday morning, down 15 from the previous evening, bucking a steady rise since the beginning of January, according to Health Ministry figures.

The data also showed the lowest number of fatalities in a day for two weeks.

Recent figures have indicated a waning of the country’s fifth wave of coronavirus infections, though the government has continued to urge diligence in observing public health regulations.

Ministry data showed there were 425,008 active virus patients, after 67,580 new cases were diagnosed on Monday. There were 2,788 people hospitalized, of whom 306 were in critical condition, a drop from 333 the day before.

With the deaths of 18 more patients Monday, the toll since the start of the pandemic rose to 8,804.

The numbers came as the coronavirus cabinet, a select panel of ministers who form COVID policy, was set to convene at 2 p.m. to vote on canceling the so-called Green Pass regulations. The regulations allow entry to certain venues and activities only to those with proof of immunization or recent negative virus tests.

A clear majority of member ministers were expected to vote in favor of abolishing the pass, government sources told Channel 12 news.

However, Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen told the station that her Blue and White party, led by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, is in favor of waiting approximately two weeks and then only freezing those regulations, rather than canceling them outright.

“We must not convey the message that vaccination is not important,” she said. “But we will listen to the experts and make a decision.”

Orit Farkash-Hacohen. (Yanai Yechiel)

The government has made public inoculation a key strategy in confronting the virus, and shots are available to all Israelis over the age of 5.

Health Ministry numbers showed that of Israel’s 9.5 million population, 6,691,151 have had at least one dose of the vaccine, of whom 6,093,060 have had two and 4,442,029 the a third, booster dose. There are also 642,137 who have had a fourth dose, made available to the elderly and at-risk groups.

On Sunday the government voted to extend the Green Pass system for a week beyond Tuesday, when it was set to expire.

Several ministers have urged canceling the regulations, among them Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, who, though he backed the seven-day extension, vowed that it will be the last time he agrees to keeping the system in place.

On Monday the Health Ministry appeared to report 78 deaths during the course of the day after raising the death toll from 8,724 in a morning roundup to 8,802 in the evening. However, Tuesday’s report showed there were 18 deaths on Monday. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.

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