Coronavirus levels in Israel may be bottoming out, as the government tentatively reopens schools and businesses after a five-week lockdown.
The Health Ministry said on Sunday that infections may be on the rise again, reporting the rate of positive tests up from 1.8% to 2.1% on Friday, 2.9% on Shabbos and 4% so far Sunday. It approaches the highest positivity rate since October 16.
The figures were released as the coronavirus cabinet continued to grapple with the dilemma of how to sustain the economy while reopening it as slowly as possible to keep infections down. On Sunday, grades 1 to 4 returned to school, and some businesses were permitted to operate; but many were still shuttered, and the outcry of people losing their livelihood grew stronger.
In a special message headlined “Remarks to Merchants,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said:
“To all of my friends, the merchants, I know how difficult it is. I request that you cooperate for another few days. We have promised to open next Sunday (8 November), maybe earlier if morbidity goes down, and this is the main problem. Morbidity is leaping forward around the world. With joint forces we succeeded in lowering it. We do not want it go up again and then we would need to re-impose the restrictions.
“I will help you in every way. We have helped you economically; we will help you with even more measures. Hold on, in a few more days you will be able to open and with G-d’s help we will overcome the morbidity together and together the coronavirus as well. We will help you to rehabilitate your businesses. You are important to me, I hear you, I understand you,” the statement concluded.
The number of active cases has dropped to 9,762, below 10,000 for the first time in months.
The ministry says 219 cases were confirmed yesterday out of 7,662 tests (testing rates typically drop sharply over the weekend), and 329 were identified today by 5:30 p.m. out of 8,133.
The death toll has gone up by 12 since the morning, to 2,553.
The total number of cases since the start of the pandemic is 314,778.
There are 392 serious patients, including 171 on ventilators, and 118 in moderate condition.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced a pilot program allowing the current required 14-day coronavirus quarantine abbreviated to 12 days.
Edelstein made the decision following consultations with ministry professionals, the Health Ministry says in a statement.
The plan is to be formalized in the coming days, to be implemented until the end of 2020.
“Our goal is to enable maximal freedom with minimal danger to public health,” Edelstein said.
The Education Ministry says there are 1,489 students known to be currently infected with the coronavirus.
The ministry said that only two elementary schools out of 5,000 nationwide were closed today — the first day of studies — due to pupils being confirmed as carriers.
It adds that over the past two weeks, 134 kindergartens out of 21,000 have been closed due to COVID-19 infections.
Updated Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 3:50 pm .