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    Health minister optimistic as daily COVID infections fall below 10,000 – The Times of Israel

    The Health Ministry on Saturday reported that 9,739 new coronavirus cases were identified a day earlier, ending a four-day stretch in which daily infections topped 10,000.

    Another 4,145 infections had been recorded by Saturday evening, amounting to 90,750 active cases. There have been 1,112,744 verified coronavirus cases in Israel since the onset of the pandemic.

    The positive test rate was at 6.91 percent, a sharp drop from Thursday’s 8.42%.

    Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on Saturday defended the government’s pandemic response amid the surge in COVID cases.

    “I don’t want to shut down the country — I said there won’t be a lockdown and there isn’t one,” Horowitz told Channel 13 news. “I don’t want to cause hundreds of thousands to be unemployed and don’t want to close schools and businesses.”

    “Stop with the panic. We are acting with consideration and responsibility. We are doing the important things to combat morbidity, but at the same time we want to keep the country open,” he added.

    Despite the high number of daily infections, the reopening of the school system last week and the upcoming Jewish holidays, Horowitz said there are signs that morbidity is declining, noting that serious cases have started to drop.

    The number of serious cases rose slightly on Saturday, to 677, after it had begun to decline in recent days from a peak of 753 during the current wave.

    “It’s too early to celebrate, but there are signs of optimism,” Horowitz said.

    Meanwhile, the death toll stood at 7,153, with 16 fatalities recorded on Friday.

    13-year-old Tomer Zarfati receives his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary Clalit health care center in Jerusalem, August 29, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

    According to the Health Ministry, 6,010,685 people have received one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and 5,507,351 have received two shots. Another 2,573,020 have been administered a third dose.

    The ministry on Saturday released a list of guidelines ahead of the Jewish holiday season. It said that synagogues with over 50 attendants must require a “Green Pass” document, proof of vaccination or recovery from the virus, or a valid negative test, from worshippers.

    But still, the ministry recommended conducting prayers outdoors. Public gatherings on the holidays are limited to 1,000 participants indoors, and 5,000 outdoors, according to the updated guidelines.

    Participants in gatherings over 100 must wear face masks, the ministry said, though it recommended that masks be worn in smaller gatherings as well.

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