Serious COVID Cases in Israel Hit 4-month High as New Restrictions Go Into Effect

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A patient in the coronavirus ward of the Herzog Medical Center in Jerusalem, last week.
A patient in the coronavirus ward of the Herzog Medical Center in Jerusalem, last week. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Israel counted on Saturday evening the highest number of COVID patients in serious condition since April, Health Ministry data shows, as the country readies to tighten coronavirus restrictions.

As of Saturday evening, there are 324 patients in serious condition, an increase of 50 since midnight. Sixty-one of them are in critical condition, and 48 are on ventilators. Since the pandemic began, 6,516 Israelis have died of the virus.

On Friday, 3,846 Israelis were diagnosed with COVID – 3.79 percent of tests came back positive, a figure consistent with the high figures of the past week.

As of Friday, 5.3 million Israelis have received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Since the campaign to give a third dose to seniors above the age of 60 began last week, 412,308 people have received the booster shot.  

As the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country, the coronavirus cabinet approved plans last week to tighten restrictions starting on Sunday. This includes a mask mandate outdoors when 100 people or more are gathered.

It also requires a green passport – which shows that the bearer has been vaccinated, has recovered from COVID or presents a valid negative PCR test – at sports and cultural events, hotels and tourist attractions, gyms, restaurants, coffee shops, dining rooms and conferences. Starting Sunday, only a rapid test, which is valid for 24 hours, will be accepted for unvaccinated people wishing to access these services. Beforehand, a PCR test valid for 72 hours sufficed.

In another two weeks, green passport rules will also apply to children age 12 and under as well. In addition, vaccinated adults caring for children with the coronavirus will be required to go into quarantine.

Health Ministry Director General Prof. Nachman Ash said Thursday that if the rate of coronavirus infection does not slow, a lockdown might have to be imposed this month.

Speaking with Army Radio, he said that at this point he did not think the move would be necessary. He added, however, that if the number of people who were severely ill with COVID-19 and on ventilators increased to the point where the quality of hospital care was affected, the Health Ministry would have to reconsider the issue.

"Our goal is to keep Israel open while preventing a situation where hospitals fill up, and we'll have a shortage of beds," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the opening of a COVID-19 testing center earlier on Wednesday, adding that "we know how to slam on the breaks" if such a situation arises. 

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