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Weekend COVID cases top 50,000 as finance minister, Likud MK also test positive

Serious cases rise to 387 as Omicron continues to rampage; but virus transmission rate continues steady decline seen in past few days

(L) Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting at the Knesset, January 10, 2022; (R) Likud MK David Amsalem speaks during a Knesset plenum session on November 22, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi; Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
(L) Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting at the Knesset, January 10, 2022; (R) Likud MK David Amsalem speaks during a Knesset plenum session on November 22, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi; Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Over 50,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, Health Ministry data showed Saturday night, with Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Likud MK David Amsalem among those infected.

Meanwhile, the number of serious cases rose by some 80 more people to 387, which included 93 people on ventilators, according to ministry data.

In more positive news, the virus’s R-value — measuring how many people each COVID carrier infects — continued a downward trend of recent days, dipping to 1.71, having steadily declined from a high of 2.12 on Monday. The figure is based on data from 10 days earlier and values above 1 show infections are spreading.

In a tweet Saturday, Liberman said he “feels good” and is quarantined at his home in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim. “I will continue to lead a responsible economic policy from home, keep track of the data and plan steps ahead,” he said.

The Health Ministry said 39,015 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, and another 11,351 Israelis were diagnosed Saturday by 5 p.m.

The Omicron virus variant has raced across Israel over the past week, leaving the country with 267,734 active patients. The rampage has left another 193,762 Israelis in quarantine due to exposure to an infected person, ministry figures showed Saturday.

Medical staff conduct COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, at a Magen David Adom testing center in Jerusalem, on January 12, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The positive test rate continued to rise, hitting 14.02 percent on Friday, marking a near-all-time record rate since the onset of the pandemic.

Several more coalition members, including Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, his deputy Idan Roll (Yesh Atid), Public Security Minister Omer Barlev (Labor), and MKs Michael Biton (Blue and White), Yomtob Kalfon (Yamina) and Emilie Moatti (Labor), tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week.

In the opposition, aside from Amsalem, three more Likud MKs tested positive this week: Haim Katz, Ofir Katz and Etty Atia. Yoav Ben-Tzur (Shas), Yisrael Eichler (UTJ), Yitzhak Pindrus (UTJ), Osama Saadi (Joint List) and Ofir Sofer (Religious Zionism) were also infected as of Wednesday.

Knesset sessions continued despite the missing lawmakers.

The death toll stood at 8,303 after four new fatalities were recorded on Friday and Saturday.

In August-September 2021, when the country was in the grip of a wave of Delta variant infectious, daily deaths averaged over 20 for a period of a few weeks, whereas throughout the current wave the toll has remained in single digits, and usually below five.

On Thursday, new rules for quarantine began, shortening isolation for asymptomatic COVID patients from 10 days down to seven. But those still displaying symptoms throughout the full week will be required to keep isolating for a total of 10 days.

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