Israel to Lift Some COVID Restrictions as Deaths, Serious Cases Plummet

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Masked people at a bus stop in Jerusalem, this week.
Masked people at a bus stop in Jerusalem, this week.Credit: Emil Salman
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

The government is mulling removing some coronavirus restrictions still in place, as Israel reported its lowest numbers of COVID deaths and serious coronavirus cases in months on Wednesday, Health Ministry data showed.

With the country's fourth wave continuing to wane, the government is expected to approve lifting some restrictions in restaurants, swimming pools and gyms, and outdoor events. The matter will be discussed at a government meeting on Wednesday.  

The Health Ministry reported that 487 people are in serious condition on Wednesday, 236 of whom are in critical condition and 190 on ventilators. This is the lowest number of serious cases since mid-August. Unvaccinated Israelis, who account for about 15 percent of the population, make up 75 percent of serious COVID cases.

On Tuesday, 2,502 people were diagnosed with the disease, the lowest number since August 1. That day, 2.32 percent of tests came back positive. The R number, which represents how many people each COVID carrier infects, remains below 1, showing that the pandemic is contracting.  

Serious COVID cases over the past month.Credit: Health Ministry

Seven people died of COVID in Israel on Tuesday, the lowest number since August. Five of them were unvaccinated. Since the pandemic began, 7,855 people have died of COVID in Israel.

New COVID cases over the past month.Credit: Health Ministry

Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash said 103FM radio on Wednesday attributed the downward trend in infection to vaccinations, but was hesitant to say whether the fourth COVID wave is coming to a close. "We want to see the effect of starting the school year now. If – and I believe this is what will happen – we see this trend continue next week, then yes, we are exiting the wave." 

COVID czar Salman Zarka told Army Radio on Wednesday that he does not know if Israel will experience another wave of the pandemic. "The virus doesn't play by our rules, and new variants like Delta can develop, so we need to keep monitoring it," he said.

Zarka added that Israel has "learned a lesson" from the transition from the third wave to the fourth wave: "It would be wrong to return to a full reopening, to go back to normal and to throw away the masks too quickly. We must manage our lives carefully and take into account, whether delta is still here, new viruses that can emerge."

Israel's booster drive continues, and nearly 40,000 people received that shot on Tuesday. Earlier this week, Israel changed its regulations for the Green Pass vaccination certificate, limiting it to people who got their second dose less than six months ago or received their third dose. As a result, the number of people getting the shot spiked. 

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