Active virus cases continue to drop; death toll reaches 268

Active virus cases continue to drop; death toll reaches 268

Fewer than 50 on ventilators; concerns of outbreak in schools remain after Rehovot, Tel Aviv staff members diagnosed

Magen David Adom staff performing coronavirus testing (Photo: Magen David Adom Israel)
Magen David Adom staff performing coronavirus testing (Photo: Magen David Adom Israel)

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel increased by 19 between Friday mid-morning and Saturday evening, Health Ministry data showed Saturday, after over a week of under 50 daily infections.

Two new deaths were recorded since Friday morning, bringing the nation’s toll to 268 by Saturday evening. There were no details on the identities of those who died.

The total number of cases as of Saturday evening stood at 16,608. Of them, 12,855 have recovered from COVID-19, meaning the number of active cases was down to 3,485.

Of those ill with the virus, 59 were in serious condition, 49 of them on ventilators. Another 40 were in moderate condition with the rest displaying mild symptoms, the ministry said.

The ministry said 5,671 virus tests were conducted Friday. Israel has the lab capacity to test up to 15,000 people for COVID-19 daily but demand has gone down as fewer suspected cases show up to have swabs taken, the Health Ministry said last month.

The Health Ministry usually announces the national virus figures twice a day — it was unclear why there was no announcement on Friday evening.

Israelis at the beach in Tel Aviv flouting the rules aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus. May 12, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The number of new infections has slowed dramatically in recent weeks. Israel has gone 14 days without seeing over 100 new confirmed cases in a single day.

Amid the sustained drop in infections, the government has increasingly rolled back restrictions meant to curb the outbreak, opening some schools and allowing many businesses to reopen, and was reportedly planning more such measures.

However, a teacher at the Navon school in the central city of Rehovot has been diagnosed with coronavirus and found to have been in contact with 52 students and the school staff. All of them have been sent to isolation, officials said Friday.

The school will be shut until May 27, the school’s principal informed parents.

In a separate announcement Friday, officials said that an assistant at the Galil elementary school in Tel Aviv had also come down with the virus. Seven children and a teacher she had been in contact with have been sent to quarantine.

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

The incidents came as Israel’s education system was set to return to full operation on Sunday in most of the country after some two months during which Israeli children were ordered to stay home in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Additionally, authorities were bracing for a possible second wave of infections after thousands of ultra-Orthodox men gathered Monday night and Tuesday in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and Mount Meron to celebrate Lag B’Omer in violation of guidelines.

Hundreds also gathered at a funeral Tuesday for an IDF soldier killed during a West Bank raid.

Violations have been reported across the country, from passengers crowded on a domestic flight to Eilat to thousands of beach-goers who ignored the closure of the shores amid unseasonably sweltering weather.

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