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Serious virus cases rise to 81, in highest tally since May

New daily cases still over 1,200, as active infections reach over 10,000; Green Pass set to be reimposed from July 29

Health care workers test Israelis for COVID-19 in a Jerusalem drive through complex, July 22, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Health care workers test Israelis for COVID-19 in a Jerusalem drive through complex, July 22, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The latest Health Ministry data Friday morning showed 81 coronavirus patients hospitalized in serious condition, the highest recorded number in two and a half months, as infections continued to rise amid the spread of the Delta variant.

According to ministry data, 1,281 new coronavirus cases were recorded on Thursday, after cases had topped 1,300 for three days straight.

The ministry said an additional 767 positive cases were detected as of Friday afternoon.

Of the over 70,000 tests performed Thursday, 1.78 percent came back positive — a rate similar to that in recent days.

There are 10,166 active virus cases in the country, Health Ministry data showed. Two months ago that figure was around 200.

Ministry data showed 81 people were hospitalized in serious condition in COVID-19 wards, up from 72 a day earlier, marking the highest tally since May 4.

The number of serious cases has been slowly rising since an all-time low of 19 last month. At one point in January, there were nearly 1,200 serious cases.

Many health officials see the number of serious cases as a more useful measure than overall cases when considering the health of the nation in dealing with the pandemic, since those are the cases that can eventually overwhelm the health system.

The death toll stood at 6,457, with three new fatalities recorded Wednesday, according to the ministry.

Israelis wear protective face masks in Tel Aviv, on July 22, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The rise in cases came amid Thursday’s decision to reinstate the “Green Pass” next week, limiting attendance at large events to those who are vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19, or who present a valid negative test result.

The renewed restrictions will apply to both indoor and outdoor events with over 100 participants, starting on July 29. The requirement to present proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test from the past 72 hours will only apply to people older than 12. Under that age, there will be no restrictions.

Ministers also voted during Thursday’s meeting to add the United Kingdom, Georgia, Cyprus and Turkey to a list of countries Israelis are barred from traveling to over COVID fears. The latter two are among the most popular destinations for Israeli tourists.

If approved by the government, the ban on visiting those countries will begin July 30.

Currently, vaccinated travelers arriving in Israel must quarantine for 24 hours, or until they receive a negative result for a test taken upon landing — whichever comes sooner. Unvaccinated travelers have to quarantine for seven days and receive a negative test when the week is over.

Police officers enforce COVID-19 regulations at Ben Gurion Airport, on July 19, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

As of last week, all those returning from countries deemed to have high infection rates are required to quarantine for a full seven days, even with a negative test result, according to the Health Ministry’s updated guidelines. The full quarantine period was recently shortened from the previous 10-14 days.

According to Health Ministry data, 112 of the cases identified Thursday were among people arriving from abroad.

The ministry also said 5,755,067 Israelis — out of a total population of some 9.3 million — have received at least one vaccine dose, and 5,283,200 have been fully vaccinated.

Health officials have linked the recent spike in infections in Israel to travelers who brought back new variants of the virus from abroad and did not properly quarantine after arriving.

The resurgence of coronavirus in Israel has been largely attributed to the spread of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and is believed to be twice as contagious as the original COVID strain.

On Thursday Prime Minister Naftali Bennett once again called on all eligible Israelis to get the coronavirus vaccine, accusing those who do not do so of endangering the rest of the country.

“One million Israelis are refusing to get vaccinated,” Bennett continued. “They are endangering the entire population, they are endangering the other eight million citizens in the country.”

He warned that the vaccine holdouts could cause the government to impose a fourth national lockdown.

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