8 more fatalities take coronavirus toll to 57; infections climb to 8,904

Health Ministry says 140 patients are in serious condition, with 109 on ventilators; 670 have recovered

Illustrative: An ambulance driving in the central Israeli city of Elad, April 5, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Illustrative: An ambulance driving in the central Israeli city of Elad, April 5, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Eight people died in Israel as a result of the coronavirus Monday, the Health Ministry and hospitals said, raising the death toll to 57.

The Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem said a man aged 77 and a woman aged 91 had died at the hospital. Both had multiple underlying health conditions. And Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital announced the deaths of a 72-year-old man and an 87-year-old woman, who were also said to suffer from preexisting health complications. A 90-year-old woman with preexisting conditions died in a Jaffa facility for coronavirus patients. She was moved there from Beersheba’s Mishan assisted living facility, and was the seventh person from the nursing home to die of the virus.

On Monday morning, the Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center in Be’er Yaakov near Tel Aviv announced there had been three fatalities at the hospital in the past 24 hours.

The identity of the eighth person was not immediately clear.

Magen David Adom workers wearing protective clothing with a suspected coronavirus patient outside the new coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, April 3, 2020. (Nati Shohat/ Flash90)

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 8,904 on Monday evening.

There were 140 patients in serious condition, including 109 on ventilators, and a further 197 in moderate condition. The ministry said 670 patients had recovered from the virus.

A top medical expert said Sunday that a slowing in the rise of cases in the past few days was encouraging: New cases had been doubling every six days until recently, he said, and now only every 11 days.

Experts are also pointing to the relatively slow rise in the number of patients on ventilators as a source of potential encouragement.

The Magen David Adom national emergency service drive through test complex in Ashdod on April 1, 2020 (Flash90)

Putting a dent in the optimism, health officials are projecting that Israel will not be able to test more than 10,000 people a day for the novel coronavirus in the next few days, far short of the government’s goal, because of a shortage of a key reagent.

Still, officials said Sunday that Israel was looking at solutions — including local production of the reagent — that could boost the testing up to 10,000 people a day and beyond.

Four Israelis died of COVID-19 Sunday: an 84-year-old woman from the Mishan nursing home in Beersheba, the sixth fatality from the assisted living facility, and a 63-year-old man, 61-year-old woman and 98-year-old woman, all said to have had underlying health issues.

In figures released Sunday, the ministry said the highest number of cases across the country was recorded in Jerusalem (1,302), followed by the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak (1,214) and Tel Aviv-Jaffa (359). Bnei Brak, one-quarter the size of the capital by population, was closed off by police on Friday morning to stem the outbreak.

Magen David Adom and Shaarei Tzedek hospital medical workers in Jerusalem, wearing protective clothing, seen with an ultra-Orthodox man at the hospital’s new coronavirus unit on April 2, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Ministers were set Monday to rule on enforcing a tighter closure over eight cities and 15 ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

The cities set to be included in the decision are Tiberias, Elad, Migdal Haemek, Beitar Illit, Ashkelon, Or Yehuda, Modiin Illit, and parts of Beit Shemesh.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Sunday that the government was considering imposing a general lockdown over all of the country ahead of Passover, when officials are concerned Israelis will flout the rules in order to hold Seder meals with family.

Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov struck a cautiously optimistic note on Saturday, following reports that officials believe the current rate of infection in the country is rising at a relatively controlled rate and shows signs of remaining within levels that the health system can handle.

Prof. Gabi Barbash. (Weizmann Institute screenshot)

“The fact that we are holding discussions about an exit strategy from the crisis is a privilege,” he said.

Prof. Gabi Barbash, the former director general of the Health Ministry, similarly said the overall situation in Israel’s battle against the coronavirus “is much better” than it was. “We’ve gone down from a doubling of new cases every six days to a doubling every 11 days,” he explained Sunday on Channel 12.

That was “despite what’s been happening” in Bnei Brak and other hard-hit areas, he clarified, and was “thanks to the closures… I hope people will maintain” the stay-home discipline, he said.

The concern is to avoid another rise because of Passover, he added. If the numbers stay like this, “This gives the authorities a much better starting point,” he said, to consider easing some of the restrictions after Passover.

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