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Fact Check-Israel’s record COVID-19 case rate has been accompanied by high levels of testing

Social media users have speculated over why there is a spike in cases of COVID-19 in Israel, despite a high rate of vaccination among the population, the use of mask mandates and a “green pass” scheme that has meant only the vaccinated are able to enter restaurants, cafes and other places.

A recent tweet, which gained over 47,000 likes, presented a graph showing the rise in cases in Israel along with the comment: “Israel, the only quadruple-vaxxed country in the world (also using mask mandates and Covid passports), just broke global record for daily Covid cases” (here).

The tweet prompted discussion over the country’s vaccination policy. However, many twitter users pointed out in replies that four vaccine doses have been delivered only to a minority of the population, and despite a record number of COVID-19 cases, observed during a period of increased testing, the rate of deaths is at lower levels than in previous waves.

VACCINE POLICY

In Israel, a fourth vaccination is being offered to a population deemed to be at risk - those aged over 60, with pre-existing health conditions. According to the data on Israel’s government dashboard, 590,028 people have received four COVID-19 vaccine shots. This means only around 6% of the population has been quadruple vaccinated.

A preliminary study published by Israel's Sheba medical centre found that the fourth shot increases antibodies to even higher levels than the third but "probably" not to the point that it could completely fend off the highly transmissible Omicron variant (here ).

However, a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine given to people over 60 in Israel made them three times more resistant to serious illness than thrice-vaccinated people in the same age group, Israel's Health Ministry said (here) .

Government statistics show that in the last nine days, per 100,000 people unvaccinated there were on average 1.65 deaths per day, versus a rate of 0.33 for the vaccinated population. Seriously ill hospital cases were seen at an average rate of 20.03 per day for the unvaccinated compared to 3.7 per day among the vaccinated (here).

CASES

The Reuters COVID-19 tracker shows that on Jan. 20, 2022, Israel reported 87,158 cases – the country’s highest ever total was reported the following day ( here ). The tracker also shows that coronavirus-related deaths are lower than in previous waves, despite vastly higher case numbers.

These figures put Israel at the top of the COVID-rate per capita, Prof. Eran Segal of The Weizmann Institute told Channel 12 News – but he cautioned that rates were likely to be higher in some other countries with lower rates of testing (here).

Figures from Our World in Data show rates of testing increased dramatically in Israel in January, and the country is now among nations carrying out the highest levels of tests per 1,000 people in the world (bit.ly/33YHGSC). Moreover, the percentage share of positive tests is lower in Israel than in countries such as the United States. Higher percentages of positive tests suggest that there is greater transmission within a community than is being picked up by testing (here ) .

Testing policy in Israel changed recently. The PCR test, which was the only formally acknowledged test system, could not meet the increasing need for tests. Therefore from the beginning of January, antigen rapid tests became a means for people to determine whether they needed to isolate (here ).

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  . 

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