668 new infections recorded in 24 hours; restrictions imposed in Bat Yam, Ashdod

Number of active coronavirus cases shoots past 6,000, with death toll rising to 309; ministers OK extension of lockdown in Arara

Police officers enforcing social distancing rules patrol outside the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on June 25, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police officers enforcing social distancing rules patrol outside the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on June 25, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Thursday evening reported 668 positive coronavirus tests over the past 24 hours, the largest daily increase since early April.

The ministry also announced an additional fatality from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 309.

The number of active cases rose above 6,000, with 47 people in serious condition, including 29 on ventilators. Another 52 Israelis were in moderate condition and the rest had mild or no symptoms.

The Health Ministry said 17,697 tests were carried out on Wednesday. The figure was lower than Tuesday, when 19,533 tests were administered, the highest daily number since the outbreak began.

A total of 186 people were hospitalized due to the virus, and 16,007 had recovered.

The increase in new confirmed infections was the largest since April 3, when there were a record 819 cases confirmed over 24 hours and strict nationwide restrictions meant to contain the virus were still in effect.

Workers wearing protective clothes disinfect a public playground in the city of Bat Yam, on March 18, 2020 (Flash90)

With the number of cases continuing to rise, cabinet ministers on Thursday approved a week-long extension of the lockdown of a neighborhood in the southern Bedouin town of Arara, which has the highest infection rate per capita of any community in Israel.

Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy was also set to approve restrictions for a number of other communities that have recently seen a rise in coronavirus cases.

In the Bedouin city of Rahat and Jaffa’s Ajami neighborhood, limitations put in place will be removed but enforcement of social distancing guidelines will be stepped up, according to a Health Ministry statement.

Three neighborhoods in the southern city of Ashdod will face restrictions, with educational institutions there ordered closed and gatherings of over 10 people banned.

Many educational institutions will be ordered closed in the central coastal city of Bat Yam, where gatherings of over 10 people will also be banned. The ministry said there would also be increased enforcement in Bat Yam at weddings and other unspecified places.

According to Health Ministry figures, Bat Yam has recorded 40 new COVID-19 cases over the past three days, marking a 12 percent rise in infections. There have been 373 confirmed cases in Bat Yam since the start of the pandemic, 204 of which are active.

Bat Yam Mayor Tzvika Brot earlier proposed a series of measures to halt in the rise in new infections, including closing the city’s beaches between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and closing synagogues, though the Health Ministry statement made no mention of these.

Ministers earlier this week weighed imposing strict restrictions on Bat Yam, but did not end up designating the city a “restricted zone” as they did with Elad and parts of Tiberias. There are particular concerns about Bat Yam because it has a relatively older population in comparison with other outbreak areas.

Earlier, the Kan public broadcaster said the Health Ministry was pushing for restrictions to be imposed nationwide.

An Israeli woman wearing a facemask due to the coronavirus walks on a beach in the southern coastal city of Ashdod, on June 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The latest jump in new infections came after experts reportedly warned ministers the country was on the brink of “losing control” over the renewed outbreak.

In a bid to stop the increase, the Knesset on Wednesday night advanced a bill to reinstate the Shin Bet surveillance program aimed at tracking virus carriers and those exposed to them — despite the opposition of the agency itself to the move.

In addition, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the IDF’s Home Front Command to open additional hotels for coronavirus patients and for quarantine purposes. The army is currently running six facilities for those infected and those who cannot adequately self-isolate at home.

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