The number of confirmed COVID cases in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community has surged over the past few weeks following the reopening of schools and other educational institutions, and are now far exceeding national rates.
According to Health Ministry figures obtained by Haaretz, some 20 percent of all those diagnosed with COVID in Israel on Tuesday are ultra-Orthodox; that figure was just 10 percent three weeks ago, and five percent just one month ago.
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Moreover, among those ultra-Orthodox who tested positive for COVID on Tuesday, 60 percent are under the age of 18, in contrast to 42 percent for the population at large.
The per capita infection rate is also higher in the ultra-Orthodox community, as compared to the general population and the Arab community. As of Tuesday, 14.8 out of every 10,000 people in the ultra-Orthodox community had COVID, as compared to 10.2 of 10,000 Israelis generally, and 3.7 of 10,000 Israeli Arabs.
These figures indicate a considerable change. Just two weeks ago, the per capita infection rate was 5 out of 10,000 among ultra-Orthodox and was less than the national average. Indeed, at the outset of the fourth wave, the infection rate in the ultra-Orthodox community was significantly lower than nationwide rates. Some attributed this to the relatively high recovery rates in the ultra-Orthodox community following previous waves, during which, relative to the general population, the ultra-Orthodox community exhibited the highest infection rates and numbers of seriously ill patients.
However, despite the pronounced uptick in new cases relative to the general population, the data indicates that the per capita rate of ultra-Orthodox COVID patients in serious condition is lower than such figures among the general population and the Arab community: in the ultra-Orthodox community for every 1 million people, 4.2 were COVID patients in serious condition. In the general population and in the Arab community, those figures were 12 and 8 respectively.
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On Tuesday, the positive test rate was among the ultra-Orthodox community (about 13 percent) was almost twice as high as the positive rate among the general population (seven percent).
That said, the data indicates that ultra-Orthodox are tested for the coronavirus less than the Israeli population generally. On Tuesday, 108 tests were performed per 10,000 people in the ultra-Orthodox community. By comparison, that figure was 176 among the general Israeli population.
Amid the uptick in COVID cases, over the past few weeks, ultra-Orthodox leaders have called on community members to comply with COVID regulations. Some of the events planned in advance of the Jewish High Holidays, which start next Monday, were even canceled. But the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur prayer services are still expected to go on as normal.