Israel on Thursday said more than 145,000 schoolchildren are currently in quarantine but the rise of severe coronavirus cases in the country has stabilized.
The Health Ministry reported that since the reopening of schools nine days ago, 41,816 students are currently in self-isolation due to being ill with the virus, while 102,638 are in quarantine having been in contact with a carrier.
The ministry said 3,241 people tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday - 1,669 of whom were schoolchildren. After 62,370 tests had been performed, the positivity rate now stands at 5.44%.
The ministry reported that 1,114 Israelis are currently hospitalized for the virus. At least 680 patients are in severe condition, of whom 160 are ventilated.
As a possible sign that the current infection wave is ebbing, the pathogen's R number (the number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to) continued to drop, sitting at 0.83.
Any number over 1 indicates infections are on the rise, while any number under 1 means morbidity is waning.
However, experts are still divided over the true meaning of the data.
Prof. Ran Balicer, who heads a panel of medical professionals advising the Health Ministry on the pandemic, said it is too early to say whether the fourth wave has ended.
"We are still at over 10,000 new cases a day and the data is incomplete since it is not yet fully accounting for the reopening of schools and people meeting during the holiday season," he said.
Balicer stressed that the biggest risk is among those still unvaccinated against the virus, pointing to the fact that one out of every 170 unvaccinated Israelis over the age of 60 has been hospitalized in serious condition - a third of which passed away due to related complications - warning that the trend could continue in Septemeber.
On the other hand, Prof. Doron Gazit, a member of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's expert panel on the pandemic, was more optimistic.
"The trend of the current infection wave being on its way down is continuing," he said. "The daily rise in serious cases is going down and our predictions are showing that this pace will continue."
Gazit attributed this drop to the coronavirus vaccine booster shot, saying that hospitalizations among those in at-risk groups are going down.
He also added that the rapid testing campaign for schools also aided in finding infections early and stopping the spread.