8 deaths take Israel’s virus toll to 159, including 2 from Bat Yam nursing home

Health Ministry says 13,107 confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel with 118 patients on ventilators and 145 people in moderate condition

Staff move a patient to a new ward at the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, March 22, 2020. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Staff move a patient to a new ward at the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, March 22, 2020. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The number of fatalities in Israel as a result of the coronavirus rose to 159 on Saturday with the deaths of eight people.

Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv announced the death of an 89-year-old resident of the Bayit Ve’Lev senior living facility in the coastal city of Bat Yam.

The hospital later said an 82-year-old man from the same nursing home had also died of the virus.

Saturday’s fatalities take the total number of COVID-19 deaths of residents of elderly living centers to 61, Hebrew media reported, nearly 40 percent of all fatalities.

In addition, a 77-year-old man from the north of the country died as a result of the pathogen at the Baruch Padeh Medical Center in Tiberias.

There were no details on the identities of any of the other victims.

Magen David Adom medical team members, wearing protective gear, test coronavirus patients in Jerusalem, on April 17, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

According to the Health Ministry’s latest figures there have been 13,107 confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel.

The ministry said 167 people were in serious condition, 118 of them on ventilators.

Another 145 people were in moderate condition and the rest had mild symptoms.

There have been 3,247 Israelis who recovered from COVID-19.

On Friday, the ministry announced that it had conducted a record 11,908 coronavirus tests the previous day, in a sharp increase from the past several days, which saw the figure fall to between 6,000-7,000.

Increased testing is seen as vital to being able to slowly reopen the economy and ease social distancing restrictions on the population.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set a goal of 30,000 tests a day, but a shortage of a key reagent meant that Israel had struggled to approach 10,000.

Efforts to hit the target also received a further boost with the Foreign Ministry saying it had signed a deal with Chinese company BGI that will see the firm send lab equipment to Israel by the end of next week, allowing for conducting some 12,000 tests per day.

Once established, the BGI equipment will expand the scope to perform as many as 20,000 tests per day, the ministry said, adding that tests will be performed in Israel by Israeli companies selected by the Health Ministry.

In addition, a ministerial committee on Friday decided to declare the Arab Israeli communities of Deir al-Asad and Bi’ina a “restricted area” amid fears of a coronavirus outbreak in the area.

The two adjacent towns in northern Israel, which are a single municipality, will be locked down for seven days, starting on Saturday at 8 a.m., the Health Ministry said.

Police at a temporary checkpoint in the northern Arab Israeli town of Deir al-Asad, April 15, 2020. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

The latest moves came a day after Netanyahu green-lighted a general plan to ease restrictions on economic activity and “stay home” orders.

A statement from Netanyahu’s office described the plan, which still must be approved by the full cabinet, as “responsible, cautious and gradual” and said it would allow for a limited opening of businesses.

No specific timeline for the plan was detailed, but according to Hebrew media reports some businesses could reopen as early as next week.

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