‘Cautious optimism’ as Israeli coronavirus rates begin downward trend

Over the last five days, the percentage of positive tests has declined.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

More than two weeks into a second nationwide lockdown, Israeli public health officials have announced trends that may indicate the lockdown is working.

Over the last five days, the percentage of positive tests has declined. On Saturday, the Health Ministry reported 2,557 new cases of coronavirus, the lowest number in weeks.

Just over 10 percent (10.3%) of people tested were found to be positive for the coronavirus. This is a significant drop from last week’s rates, where up to 15 percent of those tested were positive.

However, just 24,781 tests were conducted on Saturday – significantly less than the usual daily testing rate of 50,000 to 60,000 people.

Last Wednesday, two days after Yom Kippur, the Health Ministry announced 9,013 new cases – the highest ever number reported in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic eight months ago.

Chezy Levy, director general of the Health Ministry, told Kan News, “We need to be careful, but there is a trend of a slowdown in morbidity, which is reflected in both the number of those who test positive and the percentage of those who test positive.”

“We’ll have to wait a few days to see if this is a trend,” he added. “We have high numbers, but in recent days we have not seen the 7,000 [new daily cases] we have previously seen, and this is cause for optimism.”

Crediting the downward trend to government restrictions, Levy said, “This is due to compliance with the lockdown rules. If we continue to travel on the roads unchecked and to congregate, we will not be able to prevent the increase in morbidity.”

Professor Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, told Channel 12 News that the numbers were cause for “cautious optimism.”

He added that haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, communities, however, are “still at the peak of the spread.”

Speaking to Army Radio on Sunday, Segal said, “Our recent models show that among the general [non-Haredi and non-Arab] population there is a curb in morbidity. The basic reproduction number is around 1 and in a declining trend.”

When broken down by population, Segal said that 10 percent of the general population tested positive for the virus, but the positive test rate in the haredi community has reached 28 percent.

Arab communities, Segal said, have a 13% positive rate.

Last week, government ministers voted to extend the lockdown until October 14. They are scheduled to convene on Monday to discuss whether restrictions should be extended further or to prepare for the first stage of an exit from lockdown.