An 86-year-old man who was informed last week that he recovered from the coronavirus has been hospitalized again in serious condition with COVID-19, according to a hospital.
The news came as the number of cases in Israel appeared to slow again, even as the country’s death toll from the virus rose to 191.
The man, a resident of a nursing home in northern Israel, was given a clean bill of health and discharged from the Poriya Medical Center in Tiberias last week after two consecutive coronavirus tests came back negative.
On Wednesday night, however, he was brought to the hospital in serious condition and confirmed to be carrying the virus.
He is sedated and on a ventilator, according to the hospital.
Recoveries have begun to outstrip new cases in Israel as the infection rate has slowed, but the case could raise new and troubling questions about the accuracy of tests and whether people given a clean bill of health may still be spreading the deadly pathogen.
Studies in China, cited by Israel’s Health Ministry chief in a hot mic moment, have indicated the virus tests could be only 70 percent accurate. Two consecutive negative tests have been required to declare virus patients as recovered.
Two more deaths from the virus were recorded overnight Wednesday-Thursday, bringing the national death toll from the virus to 191, while the number of new daily infections dropped by more than half after a single-day surge apparently brought on by a backlog of test results being released.
The Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv identified the two latest victims as a 94-year-old man and a 74-year-old woman. Both were brought to the hospital from an Alzheimer’s treatment facility in nearby Ramat Gan.
The Health Ministry announced Thursday morning that the number of coronavirus cases had risen to 14,592, a jump of 266 cases in the last 24 hours. The figures came a day after a spike of 556 new cases in 24 hours was reported.
The ministry said Thursday 136 people are in serious condition, 107 of them on ventilators. Another 112 were in moderate condition, with the vast majority displaying mild symptoms. It said 5,334 have recovered from the virus, up from 4,961 a day earlier.
On Wednesday night, the ministry said it continued to increase its testing ability, saying that it had conducted 13,342 tests on Monday, up from the 12,281 it had initially declared, which itself had been a daily record. The ministry said 11,422 tests were taken on Tuesday, continuing a run of several consecutive days with at least 10,000 tests.
Testing numbers for Wednesday have not been released.
Health Ministry deputy director-general Itamar Grotto downplayed Wednesday’s reported rise of infections, telling the Ynet news site that the current wave of the coronavirus appears to have just about “exhausted itself,” but he also warned against public complacency that could lead to a new resurgence in cases.
He noted that with some 200 new patients a day, “this is more than what we saw at the beginning of this ordeal, and that could carry significant outbreak potential.”
Grotto was asked to comment on the spike in cases that were confirmed Wednesday morning when the Health Ministry announced the biggest rise in new infections in a single day since April 15.
He argued that it would not be correct to view the figure as having been a one-day total as there could have been back-logging in earlier days that slowed the confirming of these cases. However, he acknowledged that “we do see a trend of rising numbers starting from yesterday and we’re disturbed by it.”
Professor Sigal Sadetsky, the head of the Health Ministry’s Public Health Services, echoed Grotto’s sentiment Wednesday, warning that infections could swell in May if Israelis don’t heed social distancing measures.
“I am concerned there will be a second wave of infection in May,” she told the Kan public broadcaster. “It’s impossible to ensure that people don’t get infected if they don’t observe social distancing.”
She stressed that unless the rules are kept, Israel could see a rise in infections and a backtracking to stricter lockdown measures.
Despite the rise in numbers of infected, the government indicated it would continue to ease restrictions and was to meet Thursday to decide on details.
The government has faced pressure to accelerate reopening the country, though officials have expressed fears that the virus could easily rebound and warned that restrictions could yet be put back in place.
In one indication of the fears, the cabinet voted Wednesday in favor of severely limiting commemorations and celebrations of Israel’s independence and memorial days next week, and of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.