Coronavirus in Israel: I don’t expect another wave says corona czar

Number of new infections and daily deaths at the lowest in months.

A MAN receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a Meuhedet vaccination center in Jerusalem on Monday. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
A MAN receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a Meuhedet vaccination center in Jerusalem on Monday.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Israel is not going to experience another wave, Coronavirus Commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash said Sunday, as the number of cases dropped below 350, the lowest level since November.
“I’m glad to see a decline in all indices,” Ash said in a press briefing. “I want to remind everyone that we have not yet reached the low numbers that we registered between the second and third waves, so there is still a long way to go. However, the encouraging detail is that the decrease is happening despite a wide opening of the economy, which occurred about two weeks ago as the third stage of the exit strategy from the lockdown began.”
Some 337 new cases of the novel coronavirus were identified on Saturday, with only 1.8% of tests returning positive, the Health Ministry reported.
While the number of tests administered on Saturdays is consistently lower than on weekdays, the decrease remains meaningful as on the previous Saturday some 783 fewer cases were reported, and on the previous one to that, some 1,878 cases were seen. The last time Israel registered such a low number of cases was, once again, on a Saturday, but in November.
The R rate, or reproduction rate, also continued to decrease, standing at 0.62. The figure reflects how many people each coronavirus carrier infects on average. When the number is lower than 0.8 the disease is considered to be receding. Experts have been closely monitoring the rate, to see how lifting restrictions have impacted the ability of the disease to infect. While the vast majority of activities have resumed for at least two weeks, the R rate is steadily declining.
In addition, only four people succumbed to the virus on Saturday, the lowest daily toll in months. Some 6,085 have succumbed to the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.
Of those currently infected, 548 were in serious condition and 211 were on ventilators. The numbers were in line with those of previous days.
Meanwhile, over 4.5 million Israelis have been fully vaccinated with both doses of the coronavirus vaccination, while 5.1 million people have been inoculated with at least the first dose of the vaccination.
According to Ash, only two scenarios could allow a new wave to sweep through the country: 1) an outbreak among children and adults who are not vaccinated, which could be caused by a general relaxation on the observance of the rules, and 2) the development of a variant resistant to the vaccine.
“We currently do not know of such a mutation, and we are taking all measures to reduce the entry of mutations into Israel,” Ash pointed out. “The bottom line is that I am not anticipating another wave of disease and I very much hope that it does not happen.”
Starting from Sunday, most of the restrictions limiting the ability of Israelis to travel were canceled, following a ruling by the Supreme Court on the issue last week.
Ash emphasized that the authorities are, nonetheless, doing everything possible to avoid the spread of new variants by requiring from all those who enter Israel a negative coronavirus test and by stepping up the efforts to enforce the mandatory quarantine, which is obligatory for all returnees who are not fully vaccinated or recovered.
Asked what he expects to happen with inbound tourism from other countries, he said that he believes that the entrance of visitors is going to be based on specific agreements regarding the mutual recognition of vaccination and recovery certificates.
“We know that there are ongoing negotiations with different countries, and these agreements should be based on the fact that we know that whoever comes here is vaccinated or recovered and that we recognize their certificates,” he emphasized. “I still believe that this summer there will not be a lot of tourists here.”
The coronavirus commissioner explained that Israel is standing before some challenging weeks and that it is going to important to continue monitoring the infection rate and other details.
“[The decrease in numbers] has allowed us to enter a fourth stage of openings, mainly by increasing the number of attendees at cultural and sports events, opening outdoor attractions like swimming pools, changes in the education system to expand in-person learning,” he explained. “In the upcoming period, we will follow the morbidity rate and see where we are headed, also considering that the next two weeks are going to be challenging because of Election Day and Passover, and we are also approaching the holidays of April and Ramadan.”Ash also revealed that Clalit, Israel's largest health care provider, is carrying out a study on whether people who are fully vaccinated have the ability to infect other people.
In the meantime, social distancing rules, as well as the requirement of wearing a mask, are not going to be abandoned.
“We do not want to confuse [the public] with more complex guidelines now. We have a few more weeks to see what happens in terms of the continued decline in morbidity,” he said.