The Health Ministry recorded 1,094 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with just 2.7 percent of tests returning positive, as a monthlong lockdown continued to drag Israel’s morbidity rates sharply downward.
The number of active cases hit 19,207 on Thursday morning, after slipping below the 20,000 mark late Wednesday for the first time since July. The number of serious cases was at 600, up from 581 earlier in the day, after peaking at 900 on October 4. The last time the number of seriously ill patients was below 600 was on September 18, the first day of the lockdown.
However, the trailing effects of the virus are continuing to take a toll even as new infections recede. Health Ministry figures showed 226 patients hooked up to ventilators; the number of patients on ventilators has varied between 215 and 240 since the start of the month.
Testing has increased in recent days, hitting 42,974 on Wednesday with 2.7% of tests returning positive. In September, the positive test rate reached as high as 15%.
The death toll climbed to 2,319 since the start of the pandemic, an increase of 27 fatalities since earlier Thursday morning.
A military task force said Wednesday that while Israel was continuing to gain control over the outbreak, the morbidity rate remained very high in absolute numbers.
On Sunday, the lockdown began to be eased, with preschools and kindergartens allowed to open. A one-kilometer limit on travel for non-essential needs was also lifted and restaurants were allowed to offer takeout rather than just delivery.
The so-called coronavirus cabinet met Wednesday to discuss allowing shops and more schools to reopen, but pushed off a decision until next week.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the Health Ministry’s nine-stage plan for lifting the lockdown to be shrunk to five phases, but health officials expressed concerns about doing so.
Following the initial coronavirus lockdown in the spring, health officials abandoned their staged plan amid pressure from ministers and opened nearly all schools and businesses at once in early May. That move has been blamed for playing a part in runaway infection rates over the summer that led to the second national lockdown.