Israel may have left the coronavirus pandemic behind for good, Health Ministry Yuli Edelstein said on Thursday, as the number of new daily cases and patients in serious condition continued to drop, and the country prepared for more openings on Friday.
“With all caution, I am starting to believe that we are not going back,” Edelstein said while speaking at an event at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov) with the heads of health care organizations.
“In the past, to get such data, we needed a strict lockdown. Now, everything is open and all the indices are falling. I am beginning to believe that the difficult times are behind us,” he added.
Almost two weeks after the country entered the third stage of its lockdown exit strategy, the number of new cases, as well as seriously-ill patients stand at their lowest since December.
Some 1,517 new cases were identified on Wednesday, similar to the figure of the previous 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry. As of Thursday night, 549 patients were in serious condition, 202 of those were on ventilators. Eleven people had succumbed to the virus on the previous day, and the death toll stood at 6,069.
In addition, the R rate, or reproduction rate, measuring how many people each virus carrier could infect, dropped to 0.68. When the R rate stands below 0.8, the pandemic is considered to be in decline.
Since the peak of the pandemic in mid-January, Israel has registered 91% fewer deaths, 86% fewer cases and 73% fewer critically ill patients among people aged over 60, according to a Thursday morning analysis by Eran Segal, a computational biologist for the Weizmann Institute of Science.
On Thursday night, the government approved new regulations that eased several restrictions.
Starting from Friday, Israelis who are not fully vaccinated or recovered will also be able to access venues operated under the green passport outline by undergoing a rapid COVID-19 test.
Indoor venues that have a 5,000-person capacity will be allowed to host up to 1,000 people, or up to 75% of their capacity and larger venues will be allowed to welcome up to 3,000 people, at a maximum of 30% capacity.
Outdoor venues that can seat up to 10,000 people will be allowed no more than 3,000 guests. Those that have more than 10,000 seats will be allowed to welcome up to 5,000 people.
In addition, the ministers approved a new outline for the education system. Among others, teachers who hold the green passport are going to be able to teach more than one group of students, third graders will resume learning as full classes instead of in capsules and the limit of partecipants in outdoor activities will be increased from 20 to 50.