Israel's COVID Infection Rate in Two Months High: 'We Still Haven't Reached Safe Ground' Says Expert

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A medical worker administers a coronavirus vaccine shot in Jerusalem, last month.
A medical worker administers a coronavirus vaccine shot in Jerusalem, last month.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Israel's COVID-19 infection rate known as the R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects, has risen to its highest level in two months.

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The R number now stands at 0.95, while and a number exceeding 1 means an outbreak is growing. However, experts say the rise does not indicate a reversal of the downward trend in infections in Israel, but rather merely shows that the rate of the virus's decline is slowing.

The pandemic is still on a downward trend, "but the intensity of this decline is weaker," says Ran Balicer, who heads the Clalit health maintenance organization's research institute and head of a panel advising the Health Ministry. "That’s unfortunate, since we still haven't reached safe ground like we did in May. However, we still can’t call this a reversal of the trend."

The causes of the rise in the R number over the past two weeks are still unclear. At first, it was attributed to a large outbreak at a construction site in which 300 foreign construction workers, mostly from China, were infected. However, experts say the rise cannot be attributed solely to that outbreak.

There are a few possibilities, they say. The most concerning one is that the booster shot campaign’s effects are waning. Other possibilities are a seasonal effect linked with the transition to winter, or carelessness on the part of the public after the last wave of infections receded.

The R number increase has not been accompanied by a dramatic rise in the number of new cases or serious cases.

There were 557 confirmed new cases in Israel on Tuesday, slightly over the daily average last week of 496 new cases. The number of seriously ill patients is currently 138, including 91 on ventilators. There have been 8,154 coronavirus deaths in Israel.

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