133 new infections reported over past day; 5 more schools closed

Increase marks biggest jump in new cases in a single day since start of May; government offers testing for ministers after MK contracts virus

A man checks the temperature of a customer at the entrance to the market in the northern Israeli city of Tzfat, on June 3, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)
A man checks the temperature of a customer at the entrance to the market in the northern Israeli city of Tzfat, on June 3, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Friday reported 133 new coronavirus cases over the past day, marking the largest daily increase since the start of May and continuing the recent trend of rising infections.

The number of active cases ticked up to 2,227, with 17,562 infections recorded since the start of the pandemic.

Among those who were sick, 30 were in serious condition, 23 of whom were on ventilators. Another 33 were in moderate condition and the rest had mild symptoms.

Despite a rise in cases, no additional fatalities were reported over the past 24-hours, with the death toll remaining at 291.

The Health Ministry also said 14,139 tests were carried out over the past day.

Israeli students wear protective face masks at the Hashalom School in Mevaseret Zion, near Jerusalem, May 17, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As the number of new cases rose, the number of schools shuttered due to students contracting the virus also went up.

According to the Education Ministry, 92 schools and daycares have now been closed to stem the spread of the virus, up from 87 Thursday evening.

The ministry said 304 students and teachers have tested positive for COVID-19 during the fresh outbreak, with another 13,702 people in quarantine because of potential exposure to the virus.

The latest closures came two days after the government said it would leave schools open but use targeted closures anywhere a coronavirus case is found to help stem the recent spike in infections. Though classes resumed after two months of closures, students and teachers are required to wear face masks and keep to strict hygiene practices.

Israelis schools began reopening in stages last month. On May 3, the first day of classes, just 60 percent of eligible students attended, a number that later increased before dropping in the wake of the current surge in COVID-19 cases.

The Health Ministry, which has reportedly been pushing to reintroduce a nationwide closure of schools, says the rising number of infections among students is the primary factor in Israel’s recent spike in cases.

A Magen David Adom medical worker takes a sample at drive-through coronavirus testing site in Jerusalem on May 31, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The jump in new cases came after the daily infection rate steadily dropped through much of May, with Israel easing restrictions on movement, economic activity and gatherings that were put in place to contain the virus.

Also Friday, cabinet secretary Tzachi Braverman announced that ministers interested in doing so can be tested for COVID-19 following Sunday’s cabinet meeting, apparently due to potential infection fears after a Knesset member was diagnosed with the virus this week.

Testing will only be offered to ministers and not their aides, according to Channel 12 news.

MK Sami Abou Shahadeh of the Joint List announced Thursday that he had tested positive for the virus, forcing the Knesset to suspend most activities Thursday.

Joint List MK Sami Abou Shahadeh (Screen capture: YouTube)

Hundreds of staff members at the Knesset were told not to come to work unless necessary, and committee meetings and other activities planned for the rest of the week were canceled.

Abou Shahadeh, 44, entered quarantine two days ago after his driver was diagnosed with the pathogen.

Authorities were checking who Abou Shahadeh may have come into contact with while he was at the Knesset.

In an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, Abou Shahadeh said he had been in contact with thousands of people.

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