Signs that the coronavirus pandemic may once again be on the rise in Israel continued on Saturday, with the virus’s basic reproduction number increasing to 1.02. Known also as the “R-number,” the figure represents the number of people each confirmed patient infects, on average. Any number over 1 signifies infection is expanding.
Health Ministry data on Saturday showed that 497 people had been diagnosed the previous day, with the number representing 0.65 percent of the 77,000 tests conducted.
There were 176 hospitalized individuals, of whom 133 were in serious condition, a rise of seven patients since Friday. Data shows 83.3% of serious cases are unvaccinated individuals.
Speaking to Channel 13 news Saturday, Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said he was worried by the rise in virus cases, but added there are no plans to impose new restrictions.
“This rise is worrying — if it continues, if the R-value goes above 1.1. But we aren’t talking about any measures, only increasing vaccines.”
Meanwhile Channel 12 reported that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was expected to review plans for national celebrations of the Hanukkah holiday in early December. The report said events were likely to move forward with a focus on maintaining requirements regarding the Green Pass — which indicate that a person is vaccinated or has tested negative to COVID — to allow individuals to enter venues.
On Friday, top health officials said unvaccinated people were behind most new coronavirus cases, as the reproduction rate hit 1 in the morning for the first time since early September.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said the sustained decline in infections since Israel’s fourth wave peaked had “stopped a little” in recent days, but insisted morbidity was not rising again.
Horowitz told Kan news that most new infections were among the unvaccinated, and attributed the rise in the R-number to Israelis who were lax in following the government’s COVID rules.
According to the broadcaster, over 50% of cases are among children younger than 11, who cannot yet be vaccinated.
Bennett said earlier Friday that Israel will begin to vaccinate children aged 5-11 starting Tuesday; a first shipment of the vaccines for children arrived on Saturday.
Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public services at the Health Ministry, said 76% of new infections were among people who were not vaccinated at all. She said a further 12% were in those who had not received a booster shot.
She said health officials were keeping an eye on morbidity figures.
“We are watching and worried, but not getting hysterical,” Alroy-Preis said in an interview with Channel 12 news.
Alroy-Preis also said Israel would not follow Austria in mandating vaccinations, a move announced Friday amid surging infections in numerous countries in Europe.
Asked about the possibility Israel could slap restrictions on European travel, Horowitz said limitations could be imposed on any nation that becomes “red” in the Health Ministry’s classification system for morbidity. “There is no need to sow panic,” he said.
Horowitz also told Kan that there would not be a lockdown. “We won’t close entire branches [of the economy],” he said.