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For first time since September, key COVID measure shows virus spreading

Israel’s coronavirus reproduction rate (R-number) rose on Friday to 1, indicating the virus is again spreading, even as serious cases continue to wane.

Health officials warned on Friday that fresh restrictions could be imposed if the COVID rates continue to rise, according to Hebrew media reports.

The basic reproduction number, or R-number, measures the number of new cases resulting from each infection. Any number over 1 indicates infections are rising, while a figure below that signals that an outbreak is abating.

The reproduction number has remained below 1 since September 6, but has seen a slight increase over recent days and surpassed 1 on Friday.

Nonetheless, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and serious cases saw a small drop. As of Friday morning, there were 5,215 active COVID cases in Israel, with 173 of them hospitalized, 126 in serious condition and 87 on ventilators.

A month ago, there were more than 300 Israelis with COVID in serious condition.

The number of seriously ill patients is taken as a key indicator of the gravity of virus waves, as those are the patients requiring hospital care, drawing on medical resources.

Additionally, just 467 new COVID cases were reported on Thursday, compared with peaks of more than 10,000 a day in early September. The Health Ministry said that of the over 70,000 tests carried out Thursday, just 0.71 percent returned positive.

Medical workers at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem treat patients in the hospital’s coronavirus ward, on October 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

In total, 6,263,415 Israelis have received a first vaccine dose and 5,761,459 have received two doses. Of those, 4,038,711 people have been administered a third booster shot, the Health Ministry data showed.

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry notified the country’s health management organizations that the delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for children, which had been scheduled to arrive the previous evening, would not reach the country until next week.

Child-size doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccines, intended for those aged 5-11, will instead arrive next Tuesday and the vaccines will be available for the public the following day, November 24, according to the reports.

Health providers had reportedly been gearing up to start vaccinating children starting Sunday.

The Health Ministry was still waiting for an explanation for the delay, the Kan public broadcaster said.

An 11-year-old gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, on November 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

When the adult doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shots were first approved for use last year, Israel secured a place high on the list of receiving countries, with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally negotiating deals with the company’s CEO.

Vaccination with two shots and a follow-up booster is already available to all those aged 12 and up in Israel.

The Israeli approval came days after the United States Food and Drug Administration granted the vaccine authorization for the 5-11 age group, paving the way for the US to begin immunizing younger kids.

So far, over a million children in the US have been given the shots.

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