COVID in Israel: Serious Cases, Infection Rate Decline as School Year Begins

Israeli officials hope the intense COVID booster campaign will hinder the rise of new cases in September, as over 2 million students return to school

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Children enter a school in Haifa, Wednesday.
Children enter a school in Haifa, Wednesday.Credit: Amir Levy

The number of Israeli coronavirus patients in serious condition declined for the third day in a row on Wednesday, according to Health Ministry figures, as schools reopened across the country.

Serious cases dropped to 675, down from 710 on Tuesday, 750 on Monday, and 753 on Sunday. This includes 211 people in critical condition, of whom 145 are on ventilators. 

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In another possible sign that the country's booster shot campaign is seeing results, the rate of positive tests declined again, from 7.65 percent on Monday to 6.74 percent on Tuesday.  Furthermore, the R number, representing the average number of people a COVID-19 patient will go on to infect, continued its downward trend, reaching 1.07.

The number of new cases also declined slightly, from a record 10,947 on Monday to 10,313 on Tuesday. Twenty-five people died of the illness on Tuesday, the same number as the day before, bringing the total death toll to 7,082. Over 108,000 people got a booster shot on Tuesday, with over 2.3 million Israelis having received one so far. 

Despite the stabilization on some metrics, the government expressed concerns that the reopening of schools would result in further spread of the virus.  "It is likely that, despite the extensive scope of vaccination with the third dose, the increase in the number of confirmed case will continue," a government unit dealing with the pandemic stated on Wednesday.  

Under a host of regulations dictated by the coronavirus pandemic, about 2.3 million children and 220,000 teaching staff began the new school year on Wednesday. The government has placed some restrictions on schools. Teachers who are unvaccinated will be required to get a rapid test twice a week. For grades eight to 12 in communities defined as hot spots, any class with a vaccination rate of less than 70 percent would have to study remotely (while a class with a higher vaccine rate can come to school). The Education Ministry estimated that roughly 150,000 students in eighth through 12th grade would be expected to study by distance learning in red communities based on the current plan. 

Also Wednesday, the government approved a proposal to provide grants worth 55 million shekels (about $17 million) to medical workers and health-sector employees who have directly dealt with the pandemic. Each employee is to receive a one-time grant of 1,000 shekels ($312) to spend at cultural institutions or on leisure activities in a bid to also assist businesses in sectors that were closed for a significant period of time because of the pandemic.

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