The Health Ministry on Saturday night reported 177 coronavirus cases had been diagnosed over the past 24 hours, as new infections in the vicinity of the prime minister and president prompted concerns regarding their health.
Three security guards at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence tested positive for the pathogen. Netanyahu’s office said tests were carried out for the premier and others at the residence. The guards’ came back positive while Netanyahu was negative.
“The prime minister isn’t required to quarantine because the guards weren’t in his vicinity,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Meanwhile, the President’s Residence said that over the weekend a staff member tested positive. After consultations with health officials it was said that President Reuven Rivlin would not need to isolate, but that cleaning and testing of employees would be carried out.
The latest infections brought the total cases in the country since the start of the pandemic to 18,972. The number of active cases was at 3,315.
According to the Health Ministry, 35 people are in serious condition, 26 of whom are on ventilators. Another 45 are in moderate condition and the rest have mild symptoms. The death toll remains at 300.
The ministry said 12,578 tests were performed Friday.
After a sustained decline that saw the number of new cases each day dropping to low single digits, Israel has seen a significant spike in the infection rate over recent weeks. On Thursday, over 200 cases were recorded in a 24-hour period for the first time since late April.
Health officials have attributed much of the recent rise in new cases to schools, which reopened in May after a two-month closure.
As of Thursday, 460 students and teachers had tested positive for the virus, with another 25,517 in quarantine, according to Education Ministry figures. Over 165 educational institutions have been shuttered due to infections.
On Saturday cases were diagnosed in three more schools in the cities of Holon and Pardes Hannah, leading to closures of those institutions.
Amid the rise in cases, the government has ordered police to increase enforcement of social distancing rules, with more fines being handed out to individuals for not wearing masks and to businesses failing to adhere to Health Ministry guidelines.
Netanyahu warned Thursday that sweeping measures meant to contain the virus could be reimposed if the recent spike in new cases continues.
Despite his warning, the government on Friday approved the holding of certain events of up to 250 people starting Sunday. These include weddings and religious ceremonies, such as circumcisions and bar and bat mitzvahs. Other events are still capped at 50 participants, and have to take place in an open area, a joint statement from Netanyahu’s office and the Health Ministry said.
The decision has led many event halls to announce they will reopen, with necessary hygiene guidelines.