Israel was mulling another lockdown to contain the Omicron strain of coronavirus as infection rate has climbed above one percent for the first time in months, health officials said Sunday.
The Health Ministry said that on Saturday 372 people tested positive for COVID-19 after 35,450 tests had been conducted, placing the contagion rate at 1.05%, the highest the figure has been in two months.
The coronavirus' reproduction rate, the R number (the average number of secondary infections produced by a single infected person), continues to increase and now stands at 1.14, indicating a widespread contagion.
According to the Health Ministry, 131 coronavirus patients are currently being treated in hospitals across the country, 81 of them are in severe condition - 78% of whom are not vaccinated. At least 39 people are connected to ventilators. Since the start of the pandemic, 8,232 people have succumbed to the disease.
In addition, the number of verified and "suspected" Omicron cases in Israel now stands at 627. At least 134 Israelis have been confirmed as carriers of the strain, and 386 others are "highly suspected" of being infected with it.
In the wake of the continued spread of the pathogen, the government said Saturday a lockdown or further restrictions on movement are not imminent, however, if the rise in morbidity continues, there will not be any other options.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he is planning to reduce his public appearances in order to "send a message to the public."
"If Bennett hadn't alerted and insisted on further restrictions three weeks ago, when he was accused of hysteria, we would be in the same situation as Europe now," a source close to the prime minister said.
The source added that Bennett's decision to impose immediate restrictions when Omicron variant first appeared, bought Israel valuable time, but given the rapid spread of the virus, cases are set to increase further.
"The feeling is that everyone in the government understands how serious the situation is, we're getting reports and forecasts from Britain, and they talk about some 600-6000 dead from January through mid-March."
Despite the increase in the number of confirmed cases, the number of local authorities classified as 'red,' indicating high infection spread, stands at two - Salama - a Palestinian Arab village located five kilometers east of Jaffa, and Brakha - an Israeli settlement located on the southern ridge of Mount Gerizim.
Israel currently has some 6,700 active patients, most of them suffering from mild symptoms.