4 more die of COVID-19, daily cases top 1,000, as new restrictions rolled out

4 more die of COVID-19, daily cases top 1,000, as new restrictions rolled out

Total tally reaches 31,186 as outbreak shows no sign of slowing; over 6,000 new infections recorded this month

People wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus at the Mamilla mall in Jerusalem, on July 6, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
People wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus at the Mamilla mall in Jerusalem, on July 6, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Daily coronavirus infections again surged past the 1,000 mark on Tuesday, with more than 6,000 new cases confirmed in the past week, according to the Health Ministry, as a host of new virus restrictions were set to shut down bars, nightclubs, gyms and event venues.

The Health Ministry said in its morning update that the total cases in the country had reached 31,186, a rise of 1,024 compared to Monday morning.

The number of active cases grew to a new record of 12,717. Of them, 85 were in serious condition, including 35 on ventilators. Another 85 were in moderate condition, and the rest were experiencing mild or no symptoms.

Four new COVID-19 deaths were recorded since Monday evening, bringing the toll since the start of the pandemic to 338, according to the ministry.

The ministry said 23,046 coronavirus tests were conducted on Monday, 4.6 percent of which returned with a positive result.

Israel’s second wave of COVID-19 cases, as seen on the Worldometer website

A breakdown by cities showed that more than 140 communities had active COVID-19 cases. The worst outbreak is in the Bedouin village of Arara in the Negev region.

The most new cases in the past week have been confirmed in Jerusalem (896), followed by Tel Aviv (493), Bnei Brak (427) and Ashdod (326).

Sheba Medical Center staff at the coronavirus isolation ward in Ramat Gan, June 30, 2020 (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

On Monday, the cabinet passed a raft of restrictions to contain the renewed coronavirus outbreak, including limits on crowds in restaurants and synagogues and on public transportation, and shuttering event halls, cultural venues, swimming pools, gyms, bars and nightclubs.

The decision by the cabinet limits restaurants to 20 customers in indoor areas and 30 people in outdoor areas, with tables set at a distance from one another.

All public gatherings will be capped at 20 people, wearing face masks and keeping a distance of two meters. That restriction came into effect Tuesday morning.

The cabinet accepted a proposal by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to keep synagogues open, but with a maximum occupancy of 19 people, down from the current 50.

That decision also stated that within 48 hours, the Finance Ministry must introduce a compensation package for those harmed by the new regulations.

The Culture Ministry said the ban on culture events would go into effect at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

It remained unclear when the rest of the restrictions would come into effect. The Knesset passed a law early Tuesday allowing coronavirus-related rules to be implemented immediately, bypassing parliamentary approval, but it wasn’t clear whether Monday’s government decisions, which were signed Tuesday morning by the Health Ministry, still require Knesset approval before they take effect.

A gym teacher wears a protective face mask at the Rotem Fitness studio, In Moshav Burgata, May 6, 2020. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

Under the new law, effective for a month, until August 6, the government can enforce a rule and it would only be rescinded if the Knesset fails to approve the measure or does not vote on it within seven days. Under the previous rules, government decisions had to be approved by the Knesset’s coronavirus committee or another relevant panel, which can delay implementation by a day or more.

Critics said the law removed a key check on the government’s power.

According to the Ynet news site, all gatherings of above 20 people have already been banned under a Health Ministry order signed on Monday night. The remaining restrictions will be implemented separately on Tuesday and go into immediate effect in accordance with the new law, the report said.

People wait for a bus in downtown Jerusalem on June 18, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The government decision on Monday said buses would be only allowed to have 20 passengers, with the windows open and air conditioning off. Those requirements attracted much criticism since the heat of July and August would have made rides extremely uncomfortable. On Tuesday, the government succumbed to the pressure and said buses would be allowed to turn on air conditioning.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev said she had agreed on the matter with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, saying the original restriction had been impossible for the public and the drivers to follow.

The government has been criticized for making hasty decisions on lockdowns and other restrictions, sometimes based on faulty data, and for failing to adequately prepare agencies carrying out the measures or failing to warn residents in time, leading to confusion and complaints of unclear instructions.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also reportedly warned ministers that Israel needs to be able to quickly enact guidelines if they are to be effective in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

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