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Health official: 2 weeks lockdown probably not sufficient

33 COVID-19 deaths over Yom Kippur, record high of over 200 on ventilators

763 patients in serious condition, with 208 people on breathing machines; Haifa hospital calls in extra staff due to surge of virus patients

Hospital team members in the coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 23, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Hospital team members in the coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 23, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said Monday evening that 33 people died from COVID-19 over Yom Kippur, raising the national death toll to 1,499.

There were 763 patients in serious condition, with 208 people on ventilators. Additionally there were 287 people in moderate condition.

There were 3,426 new coronavirus infections confirmed Sunday, with 25,204 tests carried out. Testing levels, and therefore the number of new cases, were lower due to the eve of Yom Kippur.

However, a notably high 14.2% of tests came back positive.

Hospital team members work at the coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 23, 2020 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israel had a total of 233,118 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, with 66,639 active cases.

Health Ministry deputy director-general Itamar Grotto told Channel 12 news on Monday evening that he believed that the two weeks remaining in the national lockdown would not be enough to lower the numbers of patients to a manageable level, and that it would need to be extended.

“I believe that if we take the right steps in the health system and the public keeps to the regulations, wears masks and maintains social distancing, working together we could be [where we need to be with infections levels] in a month,” Grotto said.

Prof. Itamar Grotto at press conference about the coronavirus COVID-19, at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem on May 31, 2020. (Flash90)

The health official was responding to a report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believed the national lockdown would need to be extended.

The new figures from the Health Ministry and talk of a longer closure came as Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center was forced to call in extra medical staff during Yom Kippur as it struggled to cope with a surge of new patients, the hospital said in a statement on Monday evening.

The medical center said that 24 new patients were hospitalized over the course of the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, in the new coronavirus ward opened in the facility’s underground parking lot.

Technicians prepare beds in the underground parking of Rambam Health Care Campus which was transformed into an intensive care facility for coronavirus patients, in the northern Israeli city of Haifa on September 23, 2020.(Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The hospital said it was now caring for 78 patients with COVID-19, with 41 of them in critical condition including 16 on ventilators.

A new report by a military task force said the number of new confirmed cases per capita in Israel is the highest in the world. However, the country’s testing levels are particularly high, and there are some countries, like Brazil and Mexico, with far higher rates of positive test results.

The report also found that the number of patients in serious condition has multiplied by 10 in three months and reflects “an authentic rise in morbidity.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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