Health Officials Alarmed as COVID Cases Creep Back Up

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

Health officials sounded a cautious alarm on Sunday at signs that the coronavirus pandemic may once again be on the rise in Israel, with the virus’s basic reproduction number increasing to 0.87.

Known also as the R-number, the figure represents the number of people each confirmed patient infects, on average. Any number over 1 signifies infection is expanding.

The current figure still points to the pandemic receding, albeit at a slower pace compared to just a couple of weeks ago when that number was pegged at 0.67 after weeks of constant decline.

The number of Israelis hospitalized in serious condition for COVID-19 also continued its steady decline and stood at 366 as of Sunday, compared to 1,250 five weeks ago, a 71% drop. Of the gravely ill, 157 are currently connected to ventilators.

Notwithstanding the R-number’s ongoing climb, there is growing speculation in the healthcare system that the country’s top coronavirus official, Prof. Salman Zarka, will soon end his work with the national coronavirus task force and resume his post as director of Ziv Medical Center in Tzfas.

“In light of the conditions created, we must not forget he’s a hospital director at the end of the day,” a senior health official said. “He was ‘loaned out’ in favor of the coronavirus battle at a point when morbidity was high, but ultimately, he has a hospital to run.

“In the current state of the pandemic, it does not make sense for a hospital director to continue to serve as coronavirus commissioner while the hospital needs its management resources.”

The national coronavirus task force said “there is currently no such decision” to terminate Prof. Zarka.


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