Israel saw a sharp decrease in the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the second part of February, health officials said Monday.
The Health Ministry said 2,393 people have died from coronavirus since the beginning of 2021, with 1,459 succumbing to the disease in January and in a slight decline, as many as 934 in February. These numbers represent the average of 40 deaths per day.
In the first half of January, there were on average 53 deaths from COVID-19 per day and the successful vaccination drive that began in December is credited with the reduction in fatalities.
In fact, in the second half of February, the daily death rate average dropped to 25 people virus-related fatalities per day.
Those numbers are still considered to be high in comparison to the last month of 2020, when 488 people died from the virus. An average of 16 deaths per day.
In November, 313 people died from COVID, indicating an average of 10 fatalities a day, while October of 2020 had 957 fatalities, a daily average of 32 deaths as the result of complications from the virus.
According to the Health Ministry data, there has been a reduction not only in fatalities during February, but also in the number of severe cases of COVID-19 being treated in hospitals.
The ministry said that 742 people are currently in serious condition - the lowest that number has been since January 2, 2021, representing a 43% reduction. Vaccines are once again credited for the drop in severe illness caused by coronavirus.
But, as the over 60s become largely immune through vaccinations, the median age of seriously ill patients has dropped. As of Monday, 57.1% of seriously ill patients suffering from COVID-19 appear to be over 60, while 40% are between the ages of 30 and 59.
One in five patients, 20.2%, are from the 50 to 59 age group, 10.7% are in their 40s, 7.4% in their 30s.
There are now 17 adults in serious condition in their 20s and 15 teenagers and children still hospitalized with symptoms.
The Health Ministry also reported on Monday that the factor indicating community spread (R) has risen to 1, up from 0.79 just two weeks ago, raising concerns that contagion rate is increasing once more.
In the Arab sector, meanwhile, the R is even higher at 1.16, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to convene a special meeting to discuss a low vaccination turnout in Arab communities. The ultra-Orthodox community is currently showing an R factor of 0.82.
Israel began lifting its lockdown restrictions earlier this month, with malls and shopping centers reopening last week. Mass impromptu Purim parties also took place over the weekend despite the nighttime curfew imposed for the three days of the holiday. This change in public behavior is seen by medical officials as a catalyst for greater infection.
Among those being infected with the virus at a faster pace are younger populations, some of whom do not show symptoms.
Of all new infections on Sunday, 76.7% are under the age of 39 and only 5.2% are over 60. A closer examination of the data shows that 43.4% of new infections detected on Sunday were in the 0-19 age group.
Netanyahu posted on his Twitter feed on Monday that 97% of recent deaths occurred in patients that had not received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine.
"I cannot stand the delegitimization of vaccines from cynical politicians. I have zero tolerance for fake news, while I am fighting to save lives," Netanyahu said in his post, calling on Israelis to get vaccinated.
There is one politician who has spoken out against vaccines.
In an interview on Kan Radio earlier on Monday, Netanyahu was asked about Israel nearing 6,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. He responded with a disparaging comment directed at one of his now political opponents, former Likud lawmaker Yifat Shasha-Biton, who headed a Knesset oversight committee that has blocked some of Netanyahu's policies and had criticized his handling of the pandemic.
"Ask Yifat Shasha-Biton," Netanyahu said, mocking her name.
Yoaz Hendel, a former Netanyahu aid and now along with Shasha-Biton a member of Gideon Saar's New Hope party, said in response that it is sad to hear the prime minister joke about so many Israeli deaths.