Israel on Sunday saw over 10,000 new coronavirus cases diagnosed, the highest number since April 4, according to Health Ministry data released Monday.
According to the latest figures, 10,202 out of the 29,681 tests conducted on Sunday came back positive, putting the positivity rate at 38.9 percent.
The ministry also reported that 168 people were in serious condition — a rise of 95% from last week — with 37 of them classified as critical.
The reproduction number (R) continued to fluctuate, standing at 1.32 as of Monday morning.
Earlier in the month it stood at 1.52. The R figure is based on rates from ten days earlier, and it measures how many people each coronavirus carrier infects on average, with any number above 1 meaning the spread of COVID-19 is increasing.
It began to rise above 1 in mid-May, having stayed below that threshold for nearly two months.
The death toll stood at 10,908 as of Monday morning, including 13 fatalities over the past week.
While Israel has seen rising infection numbers for a few weeks, an increase in seriously ill patients presents a real concern as the country deals with the spread of the new variant BA.5.
Health Ministry officials told hospital directors on Monday that they should begin preparations for the reopening of dedicated COVID-19 wards.
The rise in cases has also led to officials mulling the reintroduction of certain restrictions, with health officials set to discuss a return to mandatory indoor masking and the possibility of authorizing COVID-19 vaccines for infants and preschoolers.
Israel officially lifted the indoor mask mandate on April 24, scrapping one of the few remaining coronavirus restrictions that were still in place more than two years into the pandemic.
According to an unnamed Health Ministry official cited by the Kan public broadcaster on Sunday, a decision on renewing the measure will be made next week.
Since masking rules were first imposed in April 2020 and before they were eased a couple of months ago, Israelis were required to wear face coverings indoors for all but 10 days in June last year, when the mandate was briefly lifted before being swiftly brought back amid burgeoning cases at the time.
Additionally, officials will also consider authorizing COVID-19 vaccines for the youngest children after US regulators on Friday gave their approval for the first shots for infants and preschoolers.
According to the Ynet news site, the Health Ministry will discuss the matter at a meeting on Tuesday, Times of Israel reports.
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