Health Ministry coronavirus data released Friday showed Israel at its lowest positivity test rate in a month, with 8 percent of tests the previous day coming back with positive COVID-19 diagnoses. Positivity rates had hovered at around 12-13 percent for much of recent weeks, at one point reaching a high of 15 percent. The positivity rate is seen as a key metric for measuring the spread of the virus, given uneven day-to-day total testing numbers. Thursday saw 3,692 new cases diagnosed, with 48,804 tests carried out. The country’s total case count stood at 286,393, of which 59,347 were active. Officials have said the recent numbers are cause for cautious optimism but maintain that the current lockdown will remain in place until at least mid-October out of fears the trend may reverse.
The Israeli government has extended an emergency provision that bars public gatherings, including widespread protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for an additional week. Government ministers approved the measure by a telephone vote, the prime minister’s office said in a statement late Wednesday. The decision to extend the nationwide lockdown did not slow down the so-called “Black Flag” movement in protesting the prime minister. Thousands of demonstrations took place across the country in accordance with the restrictions that bar citizens from protesting over a kilometer away from their homes. Since the restriction was approved last month, tens of thousands of Israelis have staged protests on street corners and public squares near their homes against Netanyahu and against the government’s perceived mishandling of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout.
Fires broke out in multiple areas across Israel on Friday. Large blazes near six communities led to thousands of residents being evacuated, and a section of the major Route 6 highway was closed. Around 25 fire teams, including volunteers, were called to the area of Kfar HaOranim, located near Modi'in Illit, to contain wildfires that engulfed a number of houses. Air support also arrived, and rescue services requested that residents evacuate. A request was made for more fire teams and air support. The fire department's statement read: "There is no control over the fire.”