Israel marks 800,000 coronavirus infections since pandemic began

Netanyahu: "We still have to watch ourselves, we have to wear masks, keep distances that people require, but we're coming out of it."

A medical worker is seen filling up a coronavirus vaccine dose at a Meuhedet vaccination center in Jerusalem, on February 16, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A medical worker is seen filling up a coronavirus vaccine dose at a Meuhedet vaccination center in Jerusalem, on February 16, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israel marked a new milestone in the battle against coronavirus, crossing 800,000 people infected with the virus since the pandemic broke out last year. 
On Sunday, the Health Ministry said that 1,923 people tested positive over the previous 24 hours, bringing the number of sick over the last year to 800,721.
In total, 5,861 people have died from coronavirus, including 30 over the weekend. 
The number of serious cases has also gone up to 724.
Last week, Israel marked the first time since December that the number of serious cases had dropped to 700 but the number is not trending upwards.
The city with the highest rate of vaccinations is Hashmonaim, which is located just over the Green Line near Modi'in. According to Health Ministry statistics, 84% of the residents eligible for the vaccine have received the first dose and nearly 70 percent have received the second as well. 
On the other hand, Jerusalem, Israel’s largest city, has only 38% who have received the first dose and 25 percent who received both doses. Israel is vaccinating about 40,000 people with the first shot on a daily basis (excluding the weekend).
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is on the campaign trail, said that Israel has almost emerged from its COVID-19 closures. 
But health officials cautioned that rising contagions could trigger another lockdown - a possible dampener on Netanyahu's hope of parlaying his pandemic policies to victory in a March 23 ballot.
"Restaurants are coming back to life," Netanyahu said after he and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion clinked mugs and tucked into pastries outside at a park cafe.
"We still have to watch ourselves, we have to wear masks, keep distances that people require, social distances - but we're coming out of it, and there's not much more," he said.
As 53% of Israelis having received at least one dose of the Pfizer Inc vaccine, according to Health Ministry data, the government has been gradually reopening businesses, schools and the country's main airport with caps on capacity.
Some leisure venues have limited access to customers who can prove COVID immunity with a so-called "Green Pass" issued by the Health Ministry, in what officials hope will win over Israelis still reluctant to get vaccinated.
Nachman Ash, the national pandemic response coordinator, voiced concern the public might not observe the remaining curbs.
"We are worried by the rise in morbidity in recent days, and the possibility of reverse measures certainly exists," Ash told 103 FM radio. Asked if that may include a lockdown, he said: "We may have to decide to do this before the election, certainly."
Reuters contributed to the report.