New Health Ministry data issued as the Rosh Hashanah holiday ended Wednesday evening showed that some 20,000 new COVID-19 cases had been diagnosed over the holiday, which began on Monday evening.
The number of active cases stood at 85,617, of which 678 were in serious condition. Some 55 people died over the holiday, and the death toll stood at 7,260.
Testing centers throughout the country experienced congestion and extremely long waits, apparently as a result of fewer locations being active over the holiday, as well as many students going to get tested ahead of their return to school.
The Health Ministry instructed testing sites to continue operating late into the night to meet the high demand. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz encouraged the public to get tested at rapid test locations, where less traffic was reported (and where tests must be paid for).
Meanwhile, a leading health expert on Wednesday said a key measure for gauging the extent of the coronavirus’s spread suggests that Israel’s current wave of morbidity was now in retreat.
The basic reproduction number, or R-number, measures the number of new cases resulting from each infection. Any number over 1 indicates infections are rising, while a figure below that signals that an outbreak is abating.
According to Eran Segal, a computational biologist from the Weizmann Institute of Science and a top adviser to the government’s coronavirus cabinet, Israel’s current R-number is 0.95.
The last time the Health Ministry reported a basic reproduction number below 1 was in early June, before new daily cases began to surge.
Last year, Israelis celebrated Rosh Hashanah under lockdown, but the current government has resisted reimposing sweeping restrictions to contain the latest wave, instead relying on vaccinations and more limited curbs on gatherings.