The number of people with coronavirus infection in Israel dipped to 985 on Sunday – the lowest it’s been in 14 months.
The last time the number of active COVID cases dropped to under 1,000 was March 21, 2020, when there were 980 infected people, during the first wave of the pandemic. The number continued to rise after that, peaking about three months ago. In early February, a month and a half into the vaccine drive, there were more than 74,000 active cases, and the daily number of new confirmed cases was close to 9,000, with the infiltration of the particularly infectious British variant.
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On Sunday, with some 4.5 million Israelis vaccinated (mostly with both doses) and another 830,000 recovered from the virus, the picture has changed completely. On Saturday only 17 new cases were identified – a tiny 0.2 percent out of 11,500 tests administered that day. There are currently 84 people hospitalized with COVID in serious condition.
The figure of 17 confirmed new cases takes into consideration that fewer people are tested over the weekend, as has been the case throughout the pandemic. However, numbers have been low midweek as well.
In addition, all but two of the 275 communities that are monitored by the “traffic light” plan (communities with at least 2,000 people) are all classified as “green” for the first time since the plan was instituted (two small communities, Nili in the Mateh Binjamin Regional Council and Ein Hahoresh in the Hefer Valley – are still classified as “yellow,” although the regional council they belong to is classified as green.
The downward trend in COVID cases has continued even after the education system returned to full activity several weeks ago (albeit under mask and social distancing rules). At present mass events are subject to green passport rules as are restaurants, cultural events and other events with large numbers of people.
On Thursday more restrictions were lifted in some cases, no longer subjecting them to green passport rules, but rather only purple badge rules – which limit capacity, mandate masks and social distancing, but do not bar unvaccinated people from entry. Even if this has not been officially stated, it is preliminary recognition that the vaccinated people provide greater protection, even of people who have not yet been vaccinated.
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Last week the medical journal The Lancet published an article presenting nationwide data from Israel’s Health Ministry with regard to the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccine in Israel. The figures add more support to other studies published over the past few months with very positive results about the decline in symptomatic coronavirus based on millions of vaccinated individuals.
According to The Lancet article, two doses of the vaccination reduces the risk of infection by the virus by more than 95 percent, as well as the need for hospitalization, serious illness or death as a complication of the virus. One dose of the vaccination reduces the risk of infection by 58 percent, and prevents 76 percent of hospitalizations and 77 percent of death beginning 14 to 21 days after the dose is administered.
The results of the research are reported by age, gender and calendar week the dose was administered. They show that the vaccination is effective even in the 85 years old and older age group – the group at greatest risk of serious illness and death. It reduces the risk of infection by 94.1 percent, hospitalizations by 96.9 percent and COVID-related deaths by 98.1 percent.
Analysis of the impact of vaccinations in Israel based on these figures leads to the sense that Israel is on its way out of the pandemic, which is still battering other countries around the world, especially India.
Health experts are cautiously optimistic, noting that a minor change in the virus’ genome and a decline in the effectivity of the vaccination could put the Israeli achievement at risk.
The main dangers lie in the arrival of variants from abroad and in unvaccinated children. Health authorities are waiting for the establishment of a Knesset constitutional committee that will approve monitoring arrivals from abroad using electronic bracelets, as well as other steps to curb the risk of introducing variants in Israel.
There are also steps to advance rapid testing at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
As for children, the Health Ministry is now mulling how to allow more children’s activities to reopen, including recreational and cultural ones. This is unrelated to the vaccination of children which, in any case, will only be relevant for those aged 12–15.