Head of Public Health Services at the Health Ministry Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis said on Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic in Israel is beginning to die out despite a slight increase in the virus' reproduction (R) number.
Israel’s R number — which indicates how many other people are infected by a virus carrier — has seemingly jumped from 0.52 to 0.78 in no more than a week. However, the senior health official says there is no reason to panic.
“The R number is still well below 0.8 and is certainly below 1,” reaffirmed Alroy-Pries, who added that the apparent increase in the virus’ virality is due the jump in the overall number of COVID tests conducted after the holiday of Passover.
“The pandemic is dying out, albeit at a slower pace. But as long as [the R number] is below 1, there is room for concern.”
“We currently have a little over 300 daily COVID cases. This is a very significant decline," added Alroy-Pries. “Most of the localities in Israel have low morbidity. Meanwhile, there are almost no significant virus concentrations and no hotspots at all.”
“This allows us to open up the economy and give the green light for weddings, concerts and events, as well as gradually opening up the education system.”
Despite the optimistic predictions and the massive success of Israel’s vaccination drive — in which over 5 million Israelis received the first jab and over 4.8 million also had the second booster shot — Alroy-Pries warns of complacency.
“We still have large swaths of the population that have yet to get vaccinated, including a large number of children. That is why we will open the education system carefully, all while keeping the capsule-learning format [studying in small groups].”
Alroy-Preis also addressed Pfizer's announcement, according to which the firm's COVID vaccine is effective and safe in adolescents aged 12 to 15.
“Children's vaccinations need to be thoroughly examined. We are responsible for our children's safety. Therefore, an in-depth examination is definitely appropriate. We will do anything before the FDA approves the vaccine is safe for children.”
The senior health official also referenced coronavirus czar, Prof. Nachman Ash, who said Monday he believed the outdoor mask mandate will be scrapped by next week.
"Discussions about the mask mandate are ongoing and as soon as we reach a decision, we will publish it to the public. We are considering allowing people to take off their masks outdoors. But only when we feel it is safe,” said Alroy-Preis.
As of Tuesday evening, there were 319 coronavirus patients in serious condition hospitalized throughout the country — the lowest figure since early December. There were also 175 patients connected to ventilators.
Israel’s COVID-19 death toll stood at 6,253, after five people passed away Monday.