Some two weeks after Purim, Israeli authorities are starting to sigh with relief: the dreaded spike in the infection rate that everyone was fearing after the numerous illegal gatherings during the festival appears not to have occurred.
On the contrary, in the past few days the numbers have been steadily improving, to the point that after repeated warnings about new restrictions for the upcoming Pessah (Passover) holiday, health officials are starting to express a cautious optimism.
“I do not think that at the moment there is any need to talk about restrictions on Passover,” Public Health Services head Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis said Tuesday. “If the situation of new daily cases and serious patients remains stable, then there will be no need.”
According to a Thursday morning update by the Health Ministry, the previous 24 hours registered the lowest number of daily cases in almost three months, excluding Saturday and Sundays, when the amount of tests administered is significantly lower than the rest of the week.
Some 99,000 tests were performed on Wednesday, and only 2.9% gave a positive result, identifying 2,802 new infections.
The good news does not stop here. The R rate – or reproduction rate, which measures how many people each case infects on average – has also been steadily declining and dropped to 0.85 on Thursday. The R rate reflects the situation of some ten days before, offering another reason to believe that Israel might have survived Purim unscathed.
In the meantime, the number of serious patients continues to drop, and that of fully vaccinated people is rising.
As of Thursday morning, there were 645 individuals hospitalized in serious conditions. The last time that this figure stood below 650 was December 29. At the same time, the patients on ventilators dropped below 200.
The positive trends are not surprising considering the success of the vaccination campaign in the country.
With some five million people vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine, four million with both, and less than 270,000 individuals over 50 left to inoculate, the virus seems to finally be encountering a harder time spreading and bringing about its most devastating effects.
As the data offers many reasons to celebrate, there is also cause for sobriety, as Israel is about to surpass 6,000 coronavirus deaths, although the number of individuals succumbing to the virus every day has also significantly decreased.
A few more days will be needed to evaluate the effects of the third stage of the exit strategy from the lockdown, which began on Sunday.
If the encouraging numbers continue, health officials have vowed that this year’s Passover Seder might return to resemble ones in the years before the pandemic.
“I pray that the night of Passover, when we will recite Manishtana, we will be celebrating with our children, our family members, our grandchildren and not by ourselves on Zoom like the previous year,” Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levi said at a press briefing on Thursday, making a reference to the song that Jewish children traditionally sing on the first night on Passover, asking what makes this night different from all other nights.
“It depends on us. Let’s keep ourselves safe and do everything so that the festival of Passover will be a festival of freedom,” he concluded.