In Worrying Trend, COVID Spread in Israel Rising Again Despite Lockdown, Vaccines

Israel has seen a decline in the average number of people each COVID carrier infects, but in recent days it has risen to nearly 1, while the number of seriously ill patients over age 60 decreases

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The coronavirus ward in Shamir Medical Center, Tel Aviv, last week.
The coronavirus ward in Shamir Medical Center, Tel Aviv, last week.Credit: Hadas Parush

The COVID-19 infection rate known as the R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – has climbed in recent days and is now reaching 1.

This measure had fallen and stabilized last week at 0.9, but on Tuesday morning, it had risen back to 0.97. At the same time, the daily number of confirmed COVID cases remains high; on Monday 8,811 people tested positive for the virus. About nine percent of coronavirus tests returned positive.

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A report released by the Research Center for the Fight against the Coronavirus on Tuesday said that “Infection is continuing at very high rates, and a renewed increase [in infection] may be beginning.” It added, “The rate of positive tests continues to be very high, and in practice has not fallen during the entire lockdown period.”

As of Tuesday, 1,094 COVID patients are hospitalized in serious condition, with 316 of them on ventilators. In addition, the age distribution of these patients has changed; the number of those over 60 has dropped, as has the severity of their conditions, most likely as a result of the vaccination campaign.

"At this stage," the report said, "due to the broad scope of and infection, the change in the age distribution of patients has not led to a reduction in the number of patients in serious condition."

Health officials are of the opinion that this is most likely because of the increasing presence of the U.K. variant of the virus, which has been found in about 70 percent of the new cases. As for the South African variant of the virus, over 80 cases have been found in Israel so far, including a number of cases discovered at random in the population.

Israel has so far inoculated 3.2 million people (34.3 percent of the population) after 117,000 people received the vaccine on Monday, according to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said.

Of this figure, 1.8 million (19.8 percent) received the second dose of the vaccination.

Nearly 5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in Israel, when taking into account both first and second doses, Edelstein said. 

Meanwhile, IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi has cancelled leave for soldiers who serve on closed bases – those who do not routinely leave for home at the end of the day – starting Tuesday, due to the increase in coronavirus infection, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said.

This applies to all of the military's units, except for those in which the vast majority of soldiers are vaccinated – at least 85 percent – and those in which no cases of COVID-19 have been reported, which will operate and go on leave as usual.

Soldiers serving on open bases (those who commute to their job each day) will continue working in capsules, which will not have physical contact with each other.

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