Israel's COVID Infection Rate Rises Above One for First Time in Two Months

Despite the rise of the R number to 1.03, which indicates that the virus is spreading faster than it is disappearing, the Health Ministry is unlikely to renew covid restrictions

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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People wear masks in Dizengoff Center mall in Tel Aviv in April.
People wear masks in Dizengoff Center mall in Tel Aviv in April.Credit: Hadas Parush
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Israel's coronavirus infection rate – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – has climbed above 1 for the first time in almost two months, Health Ministry data released Friday showed.

The COVID reproduction number – also known as R number – now stands at 1.03, with most infections caused by the BA.2 variant. The number is based on statistics from 10 days earlier, and a number above 1 indicates the virus is spreading. The last time the R number has been above 1 was on March 22.

The increase, however, does not necessarily indicate that a renewed outbreak is incoming. The change can be partially attributed to Israel's decision to cancel the indoor mask mandate since April 20 and proximity of national holidays and mass events held.

As of now, the daily infection figures have settled at about 2,000 new confirmed cases a day, while the number of seriously ill COVID patients continues to drop, standing at 103 patients as of Friday.

While the Health Ministry does not consider the recent rise in infection rates significant enough to take new measures at this point, it is continuing to monitor the data.

Prof. Ran Balicer, the head of the research institute for Clalit Health Services and the head of the experts committee advising the Health Ministry on the pandemic says there's no need to rush to any conclusions just yet, explaining that the figures don't show the full picture.

“The testing policy today has resulted in the calculated infection rate not representing the trends in morbidity in practice." he said. However, even though immunity rates are still high thanks to the vaccination campaigns, it is important to continue monitoring the situation, as immunity tends to "weaken with every passing month,” Balicer said.

Last week it was announced that starting May 20 Israel will get rid of its COVID testing requirement at Ben-Gurion Airport. However, the government decided that the testing site at the airport be maintained in some capacity, so that it can be reactivated if need be.

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