Fewer Covid Cases, But Also Fewer Tests

Higher Education and Water Resources Minister Zeev Elkin, one of several ministers quarantined for exposure to COVID-19. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli health officials were expressing satisfaction on Sunday at the latest data on the coronavirus, which showed the number of new cases the lowest since the second wave began.

Testing was also significantly lower than in recent days, presumably for fewer cases detected, but apparently not enough to discount evidence of real progress in the struggle to contain the pandemic.

Coronavirus czar Ronnie Gamzu said the infection rate was down to 1, meaning that each person with the virus was infecting just one more person, not multiple people.

As of Sunday night, the Health Ministry reported just 421 new COVID-19 cases over the last 24 hours, compared to last week, when the number was around 2,000 on most days.

According to the ministry, there are 26,386 active cases in the country. It says 342 people are in serious condition, 98 of them on ventilators. Another 141 are in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild or no symptoms.

The ministry says 7,793 tests were conducted on Shabbos, 8.4 percent of which came back positive. Recent weeks have seen daily testing rates around 30,000, as the government pursued testing as a high priority.

Gamzu explained that the lower test numbers were due to fewer people asking to be tested and a narrower criterion for testing, only the first circle of those who had contact with coronavirus cases.

Five more people have died of the virus since this morning, bringing the toll since the start of the pandemic to 536.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein declared on Sunday that “we managed to stop the rise in infections.” But, he warned, “it’s good, but it’s certainly not enough. The numbers are still high and worrisome, including the number of serious patients.”

Despite the good numbers, the government was preparing to announce new restrictions in cities with high COVID-19 infection rates, including closing stores and reducing gatherings, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

On the list are Beitar Illit, Modiin Illit, Taibe, Elad, Qalansawe, Zemer, and Ein Mahel, though no official statement will be made until Monday.

Meanwhile, three more ministers were sent into quarantine: Higher Education and Water Resources Minister Zeev Elkin, Community Empowerment and Advancement Minister Orly Levy-Abekasis and Religious Affairs Minister Yaakov Avitan. All had been in contact with Yerushalayim Affairs Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz, who tested positive on Thursday.

Several of the ministers’ staff members have also been quarantined, according to media reports.