COVID-19: Israel passes 1,000 serious cases as R rate drops to 1.01

Debate over school testing system continues, Likud MK David Bitan tests positive for second time

 Magen David worker take a COVID-19 rapid antigen test from Israelis in need of green pass authorization, at a Magen David Adom testing center in Jerusalem, on December 22, 2021. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Magen David worker take a COVID-19 rapid antigen test from Israelis in need of green pass authorization, at a Magen David Adom testing center in Jerusalem, on December 22, 2021.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

There was a significant decrease in reported COVID-19 cases on Saturday evening, with 53,020 new cases being reported the previous day, some 4,000 less than a day prior.

However, this may not be indicative of the downward trend that experts have estimated will begin to make itself visible over the coming days, as fewer tests are conducted over the weekend than during the week.

But what is more indicative of such a trend and is showing optimistic results, is the reproduction (R) rate, which has fallen to 1.01 as of the latest report, meaning that each infected person infects slightly more than one other. As the R rate decreases, so do the number of new daily cases since each person is on average passing the virus on to less people. A week prior, the R rate stood at 1.34, when every three people infect four others.

Serious cases, however, continue to rise, reaching over 1,000 for the first time in almost a year. Some 1,010 were reported on Friday, an increase of about 60 since the day before.

There were 301 considered to be in critical condition, 231 of whom were on ventilators and 19 connected to ECMO machines.

The hallways of Ashdod's Samson Assuta Hospital. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)The hallways of Ashdod's Samson Assuta Hospital. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

A significant rise in deaths was also seen over Friday, jumping by 43 from 8,556 on Thursday to 8,599 on Friday.

More than a quarter of those tested on Friday were positive, with a 27.44% positive return rate among the 193,202 tested.

On Saturday evening, the IDF announced that in light of the new testing policies in the education system, it would be providing free antigen tests for children up to the age of three.

The Home Front Command will work with the Education Ministry and local authorities in order to distribute tests for use in educational institutions across the country serving children up to the age of three.

THE HEALTH Ministry met with the Teachers Union on Saturday evening to continue the discussion about the return to school on Sunday morning and the government’s new testing policy for students. This follows the decision made on Friday to extend the temporary order preventing the union from striking to protest the end of isolation for children exposed to COVID-19 cases.

The union and the ministry were obligated under the same ruling to meet on Saturday night as well as on Sunday to continue working to find common ground on the issue.The meeting on Sunday will also be attended by Teachers Union Secretary-General Yaffa Ben-David and Education Ministry Director-General Dalit Stauber, as well as a senior Health Ministry official.

The labor union will present the progress of the two groups by 10 a.m. Monday morning.On Friday, the Israeli Labor Court enacted the government’s strike-prevention orders against the Israeli Teachers Union’s planned strike, in protest of the government’s new quarantine policy.

The policy, which came into effect on Thursday, rules that students who come into contact with corona will be allowed to continue attending school after performing at-home antigen tests.

In response to Bennett’s announcement of the new policy on Wednesday, Ben-David announced a strike in all schools and kindergartens in Israel. However, school was held as usual across Israel on Thursday morning.

Despite the strike-prevention orders coming into effect, the court also ordered the government to hold negotiations with the Teachers Union over the implementation of the new quarantine policy.

Meanwhile, Likud MK David Bitan reported on Saturday evening that he had contracted COVID-19 for the second time. During his previous infection last year, he was hospitalized in serious condition, taking several months to recover and return to work.

Ra’am (United Arab List) MK Iman Khatib-Yasin tested positive for COVID-19 in the Knesset on Friday morning, the Knesset’s spokesperson announced.

The Israeli government has agreed to a deal with US-based biotech company Novavax to buy five million COVID-19 vaccine doses, the Health Ministry announced on Friday.

The doses, expected to arrive in Israel over the next few months, are yet to receive a nod of approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. As part of the deal, Israel has the option to purchase an extra five million doses.