5 deaths take virus toll to 245; recoveries continue to outpace new infections

Health Ministry reports 63 new infections over previous 24 hours taking total to 16,409; 77 people in serious condition, 64 of whom are on ventilators; over 11,000 have recovered

Medical workers stand outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on May 5, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Medical workers stand outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on May 5, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Five deaths took Israel’s death toll from COVID-19 to 245 on Friday morning, one of the largest overnight jumps in recent weeks.

One of the victims was an 88-year-old man who died at Haifa’s Bnai Zion Medical Center after he had been hospitalized for a month. No details were given on his identity.

The total number of confirmed infections stood Thursday at 16,409, with the Health Ministry reporting 63 new infections over the previous 24 hours, an upturn on the trend of previous days.

According to the ministry, 77 people were in serious condition, 64 of whom were on ventilators. Another 57 Israelis were in moderate condition and the rest had mild symptoms.

So far, 11,007 people in the country have recovered from COVID-19, according to the figures.

With the number of new infections dropping, the government has increasingly rolled back restrictions meant to curb the outbreak, including opening schools for students in grades one through three and 11-12.

Staff clean a classroom at Emunah daycare in the city of Modiin on May 7, 2020 (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

On Friday the teachers’ union said kindergartens could voluntarily remain open Tuesday for the festival of Lag B’Omer after outcry from parents that the daycare centers would shut their doors just two days after reopening.

With kindergartens set to run until 2 p.m. with children attending three days a week, and schools ending at around 1 p.m., the national parents’ forum called on Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to release compensation payments for after-school programs.

“Wake up. Stop the delusion of a return to routine. What sort of routine is it when we are forced to leave work at noon to collect our children or worse, remain home to care for them. Release the financial aid for the programs,” the organization said in a statement to the Kan public broadcaster.

On Thursday, the number of people who have recovered from coronavirus became more than double those who are currently infected with the virus, according to the ministry, a trend that held on Friday.

In recent days, Israel’s infection rate has dropped off significantly, with the number of new cases over 24-hour periods consistently measuring in the dozens.

Over the weekend Channel 12 reported that 80 percent of Israeli towns and villages had reported no new COVID-19 cases for several days.

Hospitals in Jerusalem and Ashdod have begun closing coronavirus wards as the number of patients has declined.

Health Ministry statistics have indicated that Jerusalem, the city that has seen the most coronavirus cases, was joining other cities in managing to bring its infection rate down.

People in the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem after it reopened according to the new government orders, May 7, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that all lockdown restrictions could be removed by the middle of June and the government on Monday canceled the 100-meter limit on Israelis traveling from their homes for activities deemed nonessential, as well as restrictions preventing people from visiting with family.

Malls, outdoor markets and gyms reopened Thursday morning after over six weeks of closure, with shoppers reported at shopping centers throughout the country.

Israeli students in Jerusalem wear protective face masks as they return to school for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus. May 3, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Netanyahu warned, though, that Israel could have to reassess enforcing social distancing measures if there are more than 100 new coronavirus cases a day, a doubling of cases within 10 days, or over 250 people with serious symptoms in hospitals.

Israel’s National Emergency Authority fears a second wave of coronavirus infections and is calling on the government to use the relative lull in cases to prepare hospitals for a substantial increase in respiratory ventilation and treatment capacities.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the authority has prepared a model that forecasts a second wave of infections at around the time of the Jewish new year, which this year falls in mid-September.

According to the forecast, the number of cases could be at least twice as bad, reaching tens of thousands, with thousands hospitalized and deaths estimated between several hundred and the low thousands.

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