The Health Ministry reported Sunday evening that the national infection rate has surpassed 4% for the first time in weeks as COVID-19 continues spreading across Israel.
Health authorities confirmed 870 cases of coronavirus out of 21,388 tests conducted since midnight, meaning 4.1% of all tests came back positive.
There are currently 554 coronavirus patients hospitalized across the country, among them 239 patients in serious condition and 85 patients on ventilators.
Since the onset of the pandemic in Israel, 2,915 Israelis have passed away due to COVID-19.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adjourned a Coronavirus Cabinet meeting regarding the spike in infections after lawmakers failed after a 3-hour-long discussion to reach an agreement on whether to keep shopping centers open.
The Cabinet will convene again at 7pm Monday and a government pilot program to keep some shopping malls open under health guidelines was extended by 24 hours.
National Security Council Deputy Director Eitan Ben David said in the meeting that the pilot has "met all the required criteria and was a success, proving that malls are the best managed and safest trading place in the field."
Head of Public Health Services at the Health Ministry Dr. Sharon Elrai-Price said that Israel's exit strategy from the COVID lockdown cannot solely no rely on vaccines, the first batches of which are supposed to arrive in Israel in the coming weeks.
She said that significant distribution of the vaccine, which has to be administered in two doses several weeks apart, will not begin before March, assuming the vaccine proves effective and the public cooperates.
A senior Health Ministry official told Ynet on Sunday Israel is on the precipice of a third wave of coronavirus infections.
"If it looks like an outbreak, sounds like an outbreak and feels like an outbreak, it's a new outbreak. Enough closing our eyes," he said.
Itamar Eichner contributed to this story.