The Health Ministry released some statistics on Wednesday morning, showing that the ‘R’ number, or the reproduction rate of the coronavirus in Israel, has continued to increase. The latest figures indicated that it had reached 1.39, which is the highest it has gone since January. It had been at 0.9 a week earlier. When the transmission number surpasses 1, it means that every carrier of the coronavirus is infecting more than one individual on average, which means the outbreak is growing. The total number of COVID-19 cases diagnosed on Tuesday were around 13,384, which brought the total number of active cases in Israel to 64,271.
Of this total, there are 849 patients who are currently in hospitals. However, there has been a drop in the number of serious cases, as it went from 320 to 300. But, it is important to note that the increase in serious cases usually lags behind the increase in case numbers by almost a week. The number of patients on ventilators also declined to 119 from 138. The last week saw about 30 patients losing their live to the coronavirus in Israel, which brings the total death toll in the country to 10,449 since the beginning of the pandemic.
The case numbers on Tuesday were lower than the daily number of cases confirmed on Monday, when the figure had exceeded 14,000. However, the number of cases has generally been on the rise since January, when the fifth wave brought on by the Omicron variant in December was waning. Heading the infectious diseases department at Sheba Medical Center, Prof. Gili Rahav said that Omicron’s sub-variant, BA.2 was likely responsible for the increase in cases. She said on Tuesday that there were plenty of people in Israel who had not gotten infected by COVID, so they would be affected by the variant.
The rising number of cases has fueled fears amongst health experts and they have warned that Israel could be following the same trajectory as the United Kingdom, where case numbers have sky rocketed recently. Out of 67 million, there were around 3.3 million people infected in the United Kingdom in the week that ended on March 12th, which includes Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. The Omicron wave had begun to wane in the UK in the start of January and case numbers had declined throughout February, but started increasing at the end of the month.
As for Israel, Prof. Ora Paltiel, an epidemiologist at Hebrew University, said that the increase in cases in the country could also be because of the gatherings over the Purim holiday, along with the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky that was attended by millions. In late February, Israel had scrapped most of its coronavirus restrictions and the public has also become less cautious. While the BA.2 is considered more infections than the Omicron variant, but it is not necessarily more serious. Regardless, there are still plenty of people in Israel who have not been infected by the coronavirus and could be susceptible to it.