Israel reached another four-month peak in daily coronavirus infections on Tuesday, with 754 cases reported by the Health Ministry. The serious cases also climbed by eight to 53, but still remain low.
Over the past month, new daily cases spiked by 3000 percent, from a daily moving average of 15 to around 500. Over the same period, serious cases have risen by 150 percent, from 20 active serious cases to 53.
Nevertheless, the daily increase in infections is still lower than the Health Ministry's forecast from roughly two weeks ago, which anticipated that Israel would face 600 new coronavirus cases a day within a week, and 1,000 a day in 10 days.
The number of patients in serious condition increased by eight since the previous day, and the Health Ministry reported that 15 are in a critical condition and 15 on ventilators.
The rate of positive tests climbed to 1.45% on Tuesday from 1.33% on Monday, according to data released by the Health Ministry.
This came after 730 new cases were recorded on Monday, the highest since March.
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As of Wednesday, Israel has 5,172 active COVID-19 cases. Since the pandemic struck Israel, the total death toll from coronavirus stands at 6,440.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz appointed Prof. Salman Zarka, a colonel in reserves in the IDF Medical Corps and the director of Ziv Medical Center in Safed, as the new coronavirus czar. He has been a member of the national coronavirus response's expert committee, and specializes in public health and public administration.
Zarka, a member of the Druze community, commanded Israel's military field hospital on the Syrian border and teaches at both Bar Ilan University and the Hebrew University. The current coronavirus czar, Nachman Ash, called Zarka "a natural choice for the role" when Israel is coping with rising cases.
"Prof. Zarka led the coronavirus response from day one at the hospital that he managed and was a member of the cabinet of experts," Ash said, adding that he was very much involved in efforts to fight the virus in the Arab community.
The surge in cases is attributed to the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus, which is twice as contagious as the original variant of COVID-19 and has become the dominant strain of the virus in Israel.
Last week, a vaccinated passenger who arrived in Israel from abroad was diagnosed with the country's first case of a new coronavirus variant known as delta plus. The delta plus variant is very similar to the more widespread delta variant, and it is still not clear if it's more contagious or dangerous than the delta variant.
Still, Israel's Health authorities were unfazed by the hike in cases, which comes at a time when most of the population is vaccinated and serious cases remain relatively low. In line with Health Ministry recommendations, Israel's coronavirus cabinet was aiming at softening pandemic restrictions while, at the same time, bolstering quarantine enforcement and stopping the spread of the virus at Israel's points of entry.
On Monday, the Health Ministry doubled the number of testing sites at the Ben-Gurion International Airport, ahead of the expected influx of incoming flights in the summer; the Health Ministry also instituted fines for Israelis who fly to countries on the coronavirus no-fly list.
At the same time, the coronavirus cabinet on Tuesday reduced the mandatory quarantine from 14 to seven days.