Israel’s 1,263 severe COVID cases hit new record, even as transmission rate drops
The number of patients hospitalized in Israel in serious condition as a result of COVID-19 continued to rise on Sunday, reaching 1,263, the highest number since the start of the pandemic, according to new Health Ministry data. .
Before rising to 1,229 on Saturday, the last time the number of serious patients was close to that figure was in January 2021, with 1,193 serious cases of COVID-19. The number of serious patients has been rising steadily since late December – when there were just 75 such cases – due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
The ministry said severe cases were much more common among the unvaccinated: among unvaccinated patients aged 60 and over, there were 415.6 severe cases per 100,000 people compared to 35.9 for their vaccinated counterparts.
Some 37,985 new cases of coronavirus were diagnosed on Saturday, with a test positivity rate of 28.79% – also the highest rate since the start of the pandemic. Experts say the true number of cases is likely much higher and testing is more limited on weekends. On Saturday, more than 146,000 PCR and antigen tests were carried out, compared to around 400,000 daily tests a week ago.
A total of 2,888 people have been hospitalized, including 366 in critical condition, according to ministry data.
The transmission rate (measuring the average number of people each infected person transmits the virus to) continued to decline, reaching a value of 0.86.
The transmission rate is based on data from 10 days earlier and any value below 1 indicates that the pandemic is waning. In December, the R-value jumped to 2.12, but has been falling ever since.
The death toll stood at 9,139, with at least 41 new deaths recorded over the weekend and revised data adding dozens more people who died in recent weeks. According to ministry data, 299 people have died from complications of COVID-19 in the past week.
On Sunday morning, coronavirus czar Salman Zarka told Kan public radio that the pandemic is currently stable in Israel, citing the low rate of transmission, but added ‘we haven’t reached the end of the wave of the virus’ .
However, starting Monday, Israelis will no longer have to flash their Green Passes – which show proof of vaccination, recovery or a recent negative COVID-19 test – to enter restaurants, cinemas, gyms and hotels.
A newly updated Green Pass will be valid for anyone who has recovered or received two doses of the vaccine in the past four months, and for anyone who has received three or four doses at any time.
Proof of a valid Green Pass will still be required upon entry to indoor venues where the risk of infection is higher, such as performance venues and dance clubs.
Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash said the decision to scrap the Green Pass in most cases was due to its lack of “effectiveness”.
“Because Omicron also infects vaccinated people, the [Green] Pass has lost its effectiveness in most places and we have decided to limit its use to only high risk places. It’s part of the trend of living with the virus,” he told Army Radio.