Coronavirus in Israel: Number of serious patients drops below 700

The third phase of the exit strategy is set to commence on Sunday.

Israelis shopping at Mamilla mall in Jerusalem, March 1, 2021.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israelis shopping at Mamilla mall in Jerusalem, March 1, 2021.
Israel has largely left the coronavirus behind, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Thursday in an interview with Fox News, as restaurants and event halls prepared to reopen on Sunday marking the third phase of the country’s exit strategy from the lockdown.
“We’re the first country in the world to emerge from corona,” Netanyahu said. “With the green passport, you can go to restaurants, you can go to theaters, you can go to sports events.”
Some 4.85 million Israelis had received the first dose of the vaccine as of Thursday afternoon, including 3.57 million who have received both. Those who are fully inoculated are eligible for the green passport a week after the second shot.
While restaurants will welcome only green passport holders indoors, they will also be able to seat patrons who are not fully vaccinated outdoors. As for event halls, only people who are immunized or recovered will be able to enter, leaving children under 16 who have not received shots unable to attend weddings of family members.
Earlier in the day, Knesset Law and Constitution Committee chairman MK Yakov Asher threatened the Health Ministry that he will not approve the regulations issued by the government if a rapid test system for children under 16 allowing them to obtain a temporary green pass is not set up, after Public Health Services head Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis told the committee on Wednesday that the ministry was working on this as fast as it could.
Israeli borders are also set to partially reopen on Sunday. For the last month and a half, people who wished to enter or leave the country, including citizens, had to receive permission from a special governmental committee.
While the scope of the committee’s actions is set to be drastically reduced, the actual possibility of traveling is going to remain limited at least at the beginning, as the Transportation and Health ministries vowed to authorize a very small amount of flights. 
Up to 1,000 passengers are expected to land on Sunday, and that figure is set to increase up to 3,000 in the following days.
Israeli airline Israir announced that it received approval to operate several emergency flights to Frankfurt, Paris and London, while El Al will fly to New York.
Also on Thursday, the number of patients in serious condition dropped below 700 for the first time in over two months.
In the past few weeks, over a million Israeli students returned to their classrooms, and some 450,000 in grades 7-10 will be back to learn in person on Sunday. This has increased the number of infections among children, as well as forced many of their classmates who were exposed to enter isolation, currently numbering over 80,000.
According to the Health Ministry’s report, some 5.2% of the tests that were conducted on Wednesday came out positive. There were 697 patients in serious conditions as of Thursday afternoon, with 215 of them on ventilators; the death toll rose to 5,821.
The R (reproduction) rate – which measures the average number of people each coronavirus carrier will infect – decreased slightly to 0.99.
Some 4,298 people with new coronavirus infections were identified on the previous day, about half of them under the age of 19.