COVID Boosters, Restrictions Stopped Delta Wave in Israel, Expert Panel Says

Hebrew University researchers advising the Israeli government say that even a rise in COVID cases with the start of the school year would not change the overall downward trend

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A medical worker prepares to administer a third shot of the Pfizer COVID vaccine in Jerusalem, this week.
A medical worker prepares to administer a third shot of the Pfizer COVID vaccine in Jerusalem, this week.Credit: Emil Salman

A renewed wave of COVID infection in Israel, spurred by the delta variant, has been curbed thanks to the country's world-first booster shot campaign and a series of restrictions imposed over the past weeks, an expert panel said in a report presented on Friday to the government and the National Security Council.

The researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem expect that keeping the current restrictions, coupled with a continued booster drive, would bring the R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – which currently stands at 1.14, down to 0.85 in the second week of September.

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A possible rise in cases as the school year opens on September 1 would not be enough to change the overall downward trend, the experts conclude.

According to the latest figures released by the Health Ministry, 1,872,056 Israelis already received their third shot of the Pfizer vaccine, with 99,937 of them on Thursday alone.

At the current rate of inoculation, Israel's booster campaign is likely to pass the 2-million threshold as soon as the end of the week.

So far, 5,464,619 people got the first and second shots. This figure includes the 1.8 million who also got a third shot.

As of Friday morning, the number of serious COVID cases in the country stands at 689, a slight decrease compared to the previous day. This is an initial figure, however, that may change later in the day.

The rate of new serious cases has also decreased, the researchers noted, meaning they "don't expect a significant rise in the number of patients hospitalized in serious condition."

Unvaccinated people aged 60 and over are expected to make up the vast majority of serious cases, according to the experts' model.

According to Health Ministry figures, 8,078 new coronavirus cases was confirmed on Thursday. This is a slight decrease from Wednesday's 8,800 cases, but the rate of positive tests has actually gone up slightly, from 6.57 percent for Wednesday to 6.71 percent.

Nearly 59 percent of the new cases were vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry.

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