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Coming off its roughest COVID wave yet, Israel crosses 10,000-death mark

Government rejects accusations that death toll may be inflated

Burial services employees carry the body of Holocaust Survivor Golda Schwartz, who died at the age of 93 due to complications from COVID-19, Nof HaGalil Cemetery, Israel, Jan. 28, 2021. (Photo: Gili Yaari/Flash90)

This week Israel recorded its 10,000th death from COVID-19 since the pandemic began just under two years ago.

At the same time, the number of patients in serious condition with COVID dipped below 700 and is the lowest it has been since Jan. 21 at the height of the fifth wave.

As of Wednesday, the Ministry of Health reported 10,040 deaths and 693 patients in serious condition. According to the Health Ministry, 52% of those who died from COVID were 80 years old and up, while 76.6% were over 70. Some Israelis have questioned whether the numbers reflect people who have died because of COVID itself or from complications caused by it.

Immunologist and researcher, Prof. Cyrille Cohen, said it is difficult to know.

“We’re not experienced enough to give the correct numbers,” Cohen told Army Radio. “It could be that some of these people with preexisting conditions could have lived another few years, and COVID gave them the final push.”

Israel’s coronavirus czar insisted the numbers are not inflated.

“We have a virus that is unfortunately particularly deadly among the elderly population,” Salman Zarka said. “With every death announcement we receive, we hold a dialogue with the ward, with the hospital, if the reason was because of COVID. All of the figures are displayed only after they have been reviewed.”

Though new daily COVID infections are declining, with 12,101 on Tuesday – the number is still higher than in previous waves.

Despite recording the world’s highest number of daily infections and deaths per capita during January, the Israeli government has been on a spree to reduce almost all of its coronavirus-related restrictions in the past few weeks. And on March 1, the vaccine requirement for foreigners will also be dropped.

But Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said indoor mask mandates will remain.

“I’m not burning to give up on masks,” Horowitz said. “Masks are not a restriction, they will be with us for a while longer.”

Even with the decline in infections and loosening of restrictions, Israel still continues vaccinating against COVID with the Pfizer mRNA injection. Out of a population of about 9.3 million people, 6,698,387 Israelis have had one shot; 6,118,943 have had two shots; 4,461,805 have taken the first booster and some 722,851 took a fourth shot, according to Health Ministry statistics from Tuesday.

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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