Israel Will See Sharp Spike in COVID Cases in Coming Weeks, Information Center Warns

Experts point to easing of restrictions, the U.K. variant, and the proportion of those over 60 who haven't received the vaccine as factors in expected rise of coronavirus cases in Israel

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Inside the coronavirus ward at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, last week.
Inside the coronavirus ward at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, last week.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Israel's national coronavirus information center predicts the next few weeks will see a surge in COVID-19 cases, caused partly by the lifting of some lockdown restrictions on Sunday.

The center, which is part of the military’s Intelligence Corps, also links the expected rise with the spread of the so-called British variant of the virus, as well as a delay in completing the vaccination of people over 60.

According to the report, the country is exiting its third lockdown with very high infection rates. The rate of positive tests is high, and hospitals remain overwhelmed, despite the decline beginning last week in the number of seriously ill patients in Israel, which now stands at 1,110.

The so-called R number, which measures the number of people each infected person goes on to infect on average, was almost over 1 even before the lockdown was lifted on Sunday. If the R number exceeds 1, the infection rate will rise.

The center reported that Israel continues to lead globally in its number of vaccines per capita, with more than 5.4 million shots being administered – over 3.4 million having received the first dose, and over 2 million people having received the second dose.

It also reported a decline in the rate of cases and of seriously ill among those aged 60 and older, likely thanks to the vaccinations. However, the process of vaccinating this age group has stalled. More than 15 percent of Israelis who are 60 or older have not received their first shot or developed antibodies by recovering from the illness.