Israel recorded over 10,000 new coronavirus cases Saturday, a particularly high number for a weekend, tempering hopes that the country may have turned the corner on the current wave of infections.
The number of patients hospitalized in serious condition continued to creep upwards, reaching 697.
The death toll also went up, with 7,338 victims since the start of the pandemic. The Kan public broadcaster reported that one of the fatalities overnight was an unvaccinated 21-year-old man who died at Holon’s Wolfson Medical Center.
On Saturday, 10,084 new cases were identified, ministry data showed, despite the fact that the number of new cases is usually relatively low over the weekend. Another 769 infections were detected by Sunday morning, taking the number of active cases to 83,930.
Of the 155,871 tests conducted on Saturday, 6.6 percent were positive.
The rate of spread continued to rise, reaching an R value of 0.96. A transmission value over 1 means the pandemic is expanding.
Health Ministry data showed that over 6.5 million people in Israel have received one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, more than 5.5 million have been inoculated twice and 2.8 million have now received an additional booster shot.
A senior health official said Friday that the vast majority of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in serious condition were unvaccinated.
Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health at the Health Ministry, said Friday that almost every COVID-19 patient on a ventilator is not vaccinated. Additionally, of the 27 patients connected to extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machines, most of whom are under the age of 60, 90 percent were unvaccinated, according to Alroy-Preis.
Meanwhile, Sunday saw continued congestion at test centers, with concerns the situation could worsen during the week with the closure of the sites for Yom Kippur. Test centers are set to shut down at noon on Wednesday and are currently not expected to reopen until Friday morning, potentially leading to longer lines as well as people unable to get tested for early release from quarantine.
Coronavirus czar Salman Zarka said Sunday that an additional 30 testing teams would be added to centers across the country in the coming days in an attempt to ease lines as people rushed to get checked ahead of Yom Kippur. Additionally, MK Gilad Kariv has asked the Health Ministry to consider extending the validity of antigen tests from 24 hours to 48 on Yom Kippur.
Some 27,000 tests were conducted at Ben Gurion Airport on September 9-10 for returning travelers, 16,388 of them for pilgrims coming back from a shrine in Uman in Ukraine that drew tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims over the Rosh Hashanah holiday, which ended Wednesday evening.
According to the Ynet news site, over 1,400 travelers from Ukraine tested positive for the coronavirus at the airport, amid suspicions that many faked documentation of pre-flight tests showing they did not have COVID when they were in fact infected. Dozens of people suspected of presenting fake papers in order to board their flights were nabbed upon landing and will likely face charges.
Each year, tens of thousands of pilgrims, mostly from Israel, gather for Rosh Hashanah in Uman, the burial place of Rabbi Nachman, an 18th-century luminary and founder of the Bratslav Hasidic movement. More pilgrims also arrive from other Jewish communities around the world.
This year, some 30,000 pilgrims made the journey, and a framework was established that envisioned them wearing face masks at gatherings, among other rules on social distancing intended to prevent the virus from spreading at the events. However, media reports showed many pilgrims without masks along with crowding, including outside testing facilities.