Amid surge, active virus cases overtake number of Israelis who have recovered

Health Ministry reports 749 new infections overnight and 4 more deaths from COVID-19; 3 MKs instructed to enter quarantine

A Magen David Adom paramedic tests a woman at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site on July 11, 2020. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom paramedic tests a woman at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site on July 11, 2020. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Sunday morning reported 749 new coronavirus cases overnight, with four additional fatalities from COVID-19 bringing the death toll in Israel to 358.

According to ministry figures, there are 18,940 active infections, including 1,148 new cases recorded Saturday. With the latest rise, the number of active cases again overtook the number of Israelis who have recovered from the virus, which stood at 18,915.

Among those now infected, 141 people were in serious condition, of whom 48 were on ventilators. Another 109 people were listed in moderate condition and the rest had mild or no symptoms.

The Health Ministry said 19,072 tests were performed Saturday and that there have now been 38,213 infections in Israel.

Arab Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman in the Knesset, June 3, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Also Sunday, the Health Ministry told the Knesset that three lawmakers were required to enter quarantine following epidemiological investigations. The three were Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman and Yesh Atid MKs Idan Roll and Orna Barbivai.

Likud MK Nir Barkat and Blue and White MK Tehila Friedman, meanwhile, were given the all clear to come out of quarantine.

On Saturday evening, Likud Minister Ze’ev Elkin said one of his aides has contracted COVID-19 and that he therefore will enter quarantine.

“According to the Health Ministry regulations I’m not required to quarantine as I wasn’t in contact with the aide in the past weeks. However, to be sure, I requested to undergo a test tomorrow morning and decided to be in quarantine until receiving the results,” he wrote on Twitter.

Elkin joined several other lawmakers currently in quarantine, including Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana.

While numerous lawmakers have been required to quarantine, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, only Joint List MK Sami Abou Shehadeh and Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman have tested positive for COVID-19. Litzman, who heads the United Torah Judaism party, contracted the virus while serving as health minister after reportedly attending group prayers in violation of social distancing guidelines.

To contain the surge in new cases, the government has reimposed many restrictions on gatherings and economic activity, and on Friday a number of lockdowns came into effect in neighborhoods in five towns and cities hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. That measure came a day after cabinet ministers approved the closures as the number of new cases in Israel continued to rise, hitting over 1,000 a day.

Police officers speak with ultra-Orthodox Jewish men at a checkpoint leading to Jerusalem’s Romema and Kiryat Belz neighborhoods, which are under lockdown due to high coronavirus infection rates, on July 12, 2020. (by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Recent weeks have seen the reversal of many of the gains made in the fight against the coronavirus in recent months. The country had been placed on a nationwide lockdown for several weeks at the start of the outbreak in mid-March, but removed most of its restrictions by May to reopen the economy.

On Friday, the Health Ministry announced significant changes to its quarantine and contact tracing policies for the coronavirus, which are expected to greatly reduce the number of people required to self-isolate at any given time.

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