Prof. Ash: I Don’t Expect Another Coronavirus Wave in Israel 

YERUSHALAYIM -
Hospital team members wear safety gear as they work in the coronavirus ward of Ziv Medical Center in Tzfas. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Israel is not going to experience another wave, coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash said on Sunday, as the number of cases dropped to the lowest level in months.

“I’m glad to see a decline in all indices,” Ash said in a press briefing. “I want to remind everyone that we have not yet reached the low numbers that we registered between the second and third waves, so there is still a long way to go. However, the encouraging detail is that the decrease is happening despite a wide opening of the economy, which occurred about two weeks ago as the third stage of the exit strategy from the lockdown began.”

A total of 669 new cases of the coronavirus were diagnosed across Israel on Sunday as the infection rate continues to fall, dropping to the lowest level in months.

Just 1.5% of tests conducted Sunday came back positive, down from 1.9% of tests carried out over Shabbos. That is the lowest level since Nov. 19 of last year, when 1.4% of tests came back positive.

816 people are hospitalized, of which 529 patients are listed in serious condition, down from 549 the day before. That is the lowest level since Dec. 23, when there were 513 seriously ill coronavirus patients hospitalized.

The R rate, or reproduction rate, also continued to decrease, standing at 0.62. The figure reflects how many people each coronavirus carrier infects on average. When the number is lower than 0.8, the disease is considered to be receding. Experts have been closely monitoring the rate, to see how lifting restrictions have impacted the ability of the disease to infect. While the vast majority of activities have resumed for at least two weeks, the R rate is steadily declining.

The infection coefficient last topped 1.0 on Feb. 24, when it hit 1.02, before falling sharply.

According to Ash, only two scenarios could allow a new wave to sweep through the country: 1) an outbreak among children and adults who are not vaccinated, which could be caused by a general relaxation on the observance of the rules, and 2) the development of a variant resistant to the vaccine.

“We currently do not know of such a mutation, and we are taking all measures to reduce the entry of mutations into Israel,” Ash pointed out. “The bottom line is that I am not anticipating another wave of disease and I very much hope that it does not happen.”

Meanwhile, 5,175,980 Israelis have received at least one dose of the vaccine, or 55.66% of the population, with 49.07% of, or 4,563,045 people, having received two doses.