Record high of nearly 10,000 new daily cases as total infections pass 500,000

Health Ministry data released on Tuesday morning showed a record high number of new infections confirmed a day earlier, with nearly 10,000 people diagnosed with the coronavirus.

There were 9,589 cases of the virus found on Monday, taking the total number since the start of the pandemic past the half-million mark, with 504,269 diagnosed.

There were 74,639 active cases with 1,027 people in serious condition, including 247 on ventilators.

The death toll stood at 3,704.

A worker from ‘Hevra Kadisha,’ Israel’s official Jewish burial society, dress in full protective gear rests at a special morgue for people who died from COVID-19 in Holon, Jan. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

There were 126,584 tests carried out on Monday, with 7.6 percent returning a positive result.

Meanwhile, as the British strain of the coronavirus continued to spread, with some estimates saying it was responsible for around 2,000 cases in Israel per day, the Health Ministry was reportedly considering reducing the amount of contact time with a confirmed carrier that would send an individual into isolation.

In light of the highly contagious variant that originated in the United Kingdom, Israeli health officials were considering requiring isolation for anyone who spent five or 10 minutes with a confirmed carrier, instead of the current 15 minutes, Army Radio reported on Tuesday.

The Sheba Medical Center has already independently ruled that five minutes of contact with a carrier would require self-isolation.

The surging spread of the virus came as data showed that 1,854,055 people in Israel have now received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine — by far the highest vaccination rate in the world, according to the Our World In Data website.

By the end of March, Israel will have vaccinated 5.2 million citizens against the coronavirus, according to a plan drawn up by the Health Ministry.

An Israeli receives his second Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Maccabi Health Services drive-in vaccination center, in the northern coastal city of Haifa, on January 11, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Health officials told Channel 12 Monday that based on the recent agreement reached with the Pfizer pharmaceutical company, each week will see shipments of hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses land in Israel.

It will allow an additional 1,300,000 Israelis to receive their first dose, and 1,800,000 to receive their second dose, this month. The Health Ministry plan will see those as young as 40 beginning to vaccinate in February, with 1,450,000 people receiving their first dose and 1,750,000 receiving their second dose in that month. In March, the remaining population above the age of 16 will be allowed to vaccinate, with 1,700,000 slated to receive the second dose.

If Pfizer meets all of its benchmarks in vaccine shipments, 5.2 million Israelis will be vaccinated by March 20, according to the Health Ministry plan. That date also happens to be three days before the parliamentary election. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, has made the country’s vaccine drive the focal point of his reelection campaign.

Police at a temporary roadblock in Jerusalem on January 11, 2021, during a 3rd nationwide full lockdown, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry is also planning to introduce vaccination certificates as the county readies to reopen the economy.

Meanwhile, sources in the Health Ministry told the Kan public broadcaster Monday that the exit from Israel’s latest tightened lockdown, imposed Friday, will be gradual and depend on the vaccination rate and the trend seen in serious COVID-19 cases.

Even once the current closure expires — the date is currently set for January 21 — the economy won’t fully reopen immediately, the Health Ministry sources added.

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