Israel diagnosed 71,593 people with the coronavirus on Tuesday, marking another new record in daily new cases since the start of the pandemic, Health Ministry director-general Nachman Ash said in a radio interview.
Ash estimated that the number of new cases could be twice or three times higher than the official data.
Ash told Army Radio that there are 526 COVID patients who are hospitalized in serious condition, still well below the nearly 1,200 who were in serious condition last January.
The Health Ministry hasn't updated the numbers on its site displaying national COVID statistics since Sunday, but it said Tuesday that 100 of the serious cases are on ventilators and 13 on ECMO machines.
There are 8,129 medical workers who have been infected and are in isolation.
Meanwhile, 58,661 people have received a fourth vaccine shot, and more than 4.4 million have received a third dose. As of Tuesday, 8,340 people had died of COVID in Israel.
On Wednesday, the decision came into effect to shorten the isolation period for COVID carriers and unvaccinated people who were in contact with them from seven to five days. According to the new policy, people with COVID will have to conduct two home antigen tests on the fourth and fifth days after they were diagnosed and will be able to leave isolation after the fifth day, as long as the tests were negative and they do not have symptoms.
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Unvaccinated people who were in contact with a confirmed case must quarantine for the full five days and will be required to be tested at the end of that period.
The Health Ministry clarified its requirements on Wednesday evening, saying that those who received a positive result from a home antigen test on their fourth or fifth day of self-isolation must remain in quarantine for a full seven days. After that week of isolation is completed, patients who do not experience symptoms for 48 hours may exit quarantine after receiving approval of recovery from their HMO.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is expected to hold talks with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and top officials in the ministry in the coming days to consider a proposal to exempt students from quarantine if they were exposed to a confirmed case. According to this proposal, any student exposed to a COVID carrier will be regularly tested and will not need to quarantine. It is not yet clear how frequent this testing would be, and how long it would continue.