Israel Virus Response Chief: Israel Dodged Post-Purim COVID Surge

Purim in Yerushalayim. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

Tomer Lotan, a senior official in the Health Ministry, on Tuesday said that there is a downward trend in the infection rate as well as in serious cases and deaths, despite Purim celebrations and the reopening of the economy, the airport and most of the education system.

“Our R number currently stands at 0.95, exactly ten days after Purim. We were afraid of a higher number at this point, and when I saw that number today I calmed down a bit,” Lotan said.

As well as a lower infection rate, on Monday the percentage of positive tests dropped to 4%.

“There is no doubt that the country’s number of seriously ill patients will dictate policy decisions going forward,” Lotan said.

The Arab population has not seen this reduction in spread, and the percentage of this population who are vaccinated is also low compared to the rest of Israel.

“We have a major control center within Magen Israel [the national pandemic response center] that does energetic work with the authorities and the Arab public. In the last two or three weeks, there has been a significant increase in the rate of immunization in Arab society.”

Another weak spot according to Lotan is the airport. Lotan did however defend the government decision as legitimate, in allowing thousands to return to Israel ahead of the March 23 elections.

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