Israel’s coronavirus death toll has reached 219 after 12 more people died of COVID-19 since Wednesday night, Israel’s Health Ministry reported on Thursday. But the downward trend in the rate of new infections continues, and the country’s health system is preparing to return to normal operations.

As of Thursday morning, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases stood at 15,870, of which 8,412 have recovered, and 7,239 are still considered active patients, according to the ministry. Of those still considered active patients, 7,043 are in mild condition, 79 are in moderate condition, and 117 are in critical condition, of which 85 are on ventilators.

In the Arab town of Deir al-Assad in northern Israel, which has the largest number of infections in the country relative to population size, there has been just one new confirmed case of the virus in the past three days. The number of infected residents stands at 147.

Half of the confirmed cases in the hard-hit ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak have recovered, and just 21 new cases have been reported in the past three days.

The greatest number of new cases over the past three days, 101, was recorded in Jerusalem. An additional 20 people contracted the virus in Beit Shemesh, while the rate in Netivot was zero. Both cities are under partial lockdown.

In Tel Aviv, another three people contracted the virus over the past three days, bringing the city’s overall number to 532—a morbidity rate of just 34 cases per 100,000 residents. In Modi’in, Sderot, Herzliya, Nof Hagalil, Ra’anana, Gedera, Or Yehuda and many other cities, no additional infections were recorded in recent days.

Within the framework of returning the health-care system to a regular routine, meanwhile, the ministry said on Thursday that hospitals would begin functioning on a normal basis. As of Thursday, elective procedures, surgeries and treatment at outpatient clinics were reinstated, including physical therapy and alternative-medicine treatments. Non-urgent surgeries will be performed in accordance with anesthesia reserves.

With that, the health-care system will not be returning to complete normalcy: Morning surgeries will be conducted on a 60 percent basis compared to the pre-pandemic period, and afternoon procedures on a 50 percent basis.

Health-fund clinics and other treatment facilities were also authorized to return to normal, except in areas under lockdown or restrictions due to unusually high infection rates. Treatments that can be carried out remotely, such as consultations, will continue within those parameters.

As for in vitro-fertilization treatments, special directives are expected to be published separately later on Thursday.

Director of the Clalit national health-fund professor Ehud Davidson said: “In recent weeks, we experienced a 30 percent to 35 percent drop in the public’s requests for check-ups and follow-ups with family and children’s doctors … and a 43 percent drop in emergency room visits. In light of attaining control over the rate of spread of the virus and relatively small scope of morbidity, we are returning to regular activities.”

Also as a result of the reduced number of coronavirus patients, hospitals have already begun closing their corona wards. There are currently just 383 coronavirus patients in hospitals across the country, compared to 750 two weeks ago.

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