The pandemic continued its retreat this week in Israel and globally after the Omicron variant caused a staggering number of infections since it emerged several months ago.
There were 2.2 million confirmed Omicron infections in Israel, but epidemiologist Eran Segal estimated on Friday that the actual number of cases was far higher — around 4.5 million, close to half of Israel’s population of over 9 million.
Around 70 percent of Israelis have been infected with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, or around 6 to 7 million people, Segal told Channel 12.
The number of new cases in Israel has been falling in recent weeks, after peaking last month, and the government has begun rolling back rules put in place to contain the Omicron wave.
The Health Ministry on Friday reported 15,358 infections diagnosed the day before. At the height of the outbreak in January, there were a record 85,185 infections in a day.
There were 152,411 actives infections on Friday, including 808 severe “cases”, the Health Ministry said.
In the past week, 249 Israelis died of the virus, bringing the toll since the start of the pandemic to 9,828.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Thursday that the Omicron wave was “breaking,” as he and top officials agreed to cease the Green Pass vaccine pass system at the end of the month. Some other restrictions will remain in place.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday recommended easing some rules for Israeli travelers returning from abroad.
Globally, after a surge which lasted for three-and-a-half months, the average number of daily cases dropped for a third week in a row, falling back by 22% to 1.97 million new worldwide cases, according to an AFP tally on Thursday.
The number of daily cases dropped significantly in North America, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and Africa, and remained steady in Asia and Oceania. Sweden saw the biggest drop of the week with 78% fewer cases.
South East Asia and Oceania saw a spike in cases, especially in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Vietnam and South Korea.
Russia this week overtook the US to register the highest number of new cases with an average of 187,500 infections a day. The US had 119,600 cases per day.
The number of COVID-linked deaths declined by seven percent globally, with an average of 10,355 per day, after an increase for five weeks in a row.
The US again had the most deaths this week with an average of 2,300 per day, ahead of Brazil (841) and Russia (726).