COVID-19: Israel’s reproduction number hits 0.88, lowest in three months

The number of serious patients is also on the decline, especially among people 60 and older.

A truck with an electric sign calls on Tel Aviv residents to get vaccinated (photo credit: Courtesy)
A truck with an electric sign calls on Tel Aviv residents to get vaccinated
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Whether it is the vaccines or the lockdown, Israel once again on Friday saw a drop in the rate of infection. 
The reproduction rate - also known as the “R” - dropped to 0.88, the lowest in the three months. 
The Health Ministry shared that less than 5,000 new cases (4,922) were discovered yesterday - 6.7% of the roughly 75,000 people who were screened. This is the lowest positive rate since January 9.
With the nice weather and the positive data, some 150,000 hikers visited national parks and nature reserves across Israel, the Nature and Parks Authority reported Saturday afternoon. An additional 1,300 hikers spent the night in Israel's campgrounds.
Infection, however, is not declining consistently across the country.
Although the R is 0.77 among the haredi sector, a majority of haredi towns and cities remain "red" with a high number of people testing positive. For example, the ultra-Orthodox town of Emmanuel had 25% of all people screened test positive on Thursday.  In Safed, that percentage was 18.
However, Bnei Brak, for example, has been working hard to get its people vaccinated, which will ultimately bring down infection as Israel is seeing among other sectors. 
On Thursday, Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center launched a mobile vaccination campaign targeted at yeshiva students in the city. A mobile unit traveled between the city’s largest yeshivas and offered people to get the jab.
A separate campaign took place Thursday night at which haredim in the city were encouraged to come and get vaccinated and receive a portion of cholent, a traditional Jewish stew consisting of beef, potatoes and beans.
Some 37,000 residents have been vaccinated, an increase of 3,000 in just one day. On Friday, the Health Ministry showed that 15% of people screened tested positive in the city.
The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality has also been stepping up efforts to improve the level of vaccination in its red neighborhoods.
On Friday, a truck with a huge electronic screen traveled through those neighborhoods showing the numbers of sick and hospitalized people in the city, along with a message about the importance of following guidelines and getting vaccinated.
In addition, over the weekend, the municipality ran public transport vehicles through the city and, in various languages, called on residents to get vaccinated, tested and follow guidelines.
The number of serious patients is also on the decline, especially among people 60 and older, many of whom have already had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. 
In total, there were 985 serious cases reported by the Health Ministry on Friday, the second day in which the number was less than 1,000. 
Among those in serious condition, 63.6% are over the age of 60, 17.1% are between 50 and 59 and 9.8% are in their 40s. Moreover, there are nearly 70 serious patients in their 30s and another around 20 who are in their 20s. There are also a handful of younger patients.
The death toll stood at 5,286. Some 15 people died on Thursday. 
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein shared positive news on Friday morning: 147,000 people were vaccinated the day before, an increase from the low the country had been experiencing in the last week or so.
In total, he reported, more than 3.7 million people have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and another 2.4 million their second dose, too. 
“We will open gyms,” Edelstein said. “You will decide whether you be part of the celebration or stay behind. Just ‘give a shoulder to the vaccine. A small step for you, a big step for the country.”
"Those who don’t vaccinate now will be very sorry when in a month we open the soccer, event halls and concerts and they will have to stand in lines for vaccines,” Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch told Channel 13 over the weekend.
Regarding vaccines, Head of Public Health Services Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis told Channel 12 over the weekend that "there was a lot of buzz in the media that the youth don’t want to be vaccinated," but despite the vaccination rate leveling off in recent days, younger Israelis are getting vaccinated.
The campaign has been open to people age 16 and over for about two weeks. Since then, around 40% of young adults ages 16-29 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the Health Ministry showed.