The Health Ministry on Tuesday night confirmed 803 new coronavirus infections over the previous 24 hours, as officials in the ministry were said to be pushing for imposing strict lockdowns in dozens of cities in a dramatic push to contain the outbreak.
The new tally was the second-highest single day total since the start of the pandemic.
There have now been 25,244 cases since the start of the pandemic. There are currently 7,583 active confirmed cases.
The ministry said the number of patients in serious condition was up to 52, six more than the previous update Tuesday morning, though the number of people on ventilators remained steady at 24. The death toll remained at 320.
The number of COVID-19 tests conducted on Monday, 20,327, was the highest since the start of the pandemic. Another 17,948 tests were conducted on Tuesday by 11 p.m.
Channel 12 reported that the Health Ministry was demanding strict lockdowns in dozens of cities and communities to contain the outbreak.
The recommended lockdowns will be tougher than the current “restricted zones,” where people are free to leave their homes and even to enter or leave the restricted zones for certain purposes, the report said, citing sources in the ministry.
The areas to be locked down will be larger than the restricted zones, most of which consisted of several streets or small neighborhoods, according to the report.
The areas likely to be locked down include the cities of Dimona, Kiryat Gat, Ashdod and Ramle.
Ministers and officials will reportedly hold a series of discussions on the matter over the next two days, and police have already been told to prepare to enforce the new restrictions.
“We are out of time, we have to do this here and now,” the network quoted an unidentified Health Ministry official as saying.
However, the network cited other Health Ministry officials calling the proposed lockdowns a draconian and extreme step that isn’t necessary, because there are now “effective treatments” for COVID-19 and “it isn’t clear where the catastrophe is here.”
Earlier Tuesday, cabinet ministers imposed new restrictions on public gatherings in a bid to stem the rising infection rate. The goal of the rules, officials said, was to avoid a general lockdown by calibrating the new limitations to reach a steady and predictable infection rate that doesn’t overload the healthcare system.
The main restrictions, approved late Monday by the “coronavirus cabinet,” a committee of ministers focused on combating the virus, apply to event halls and public gathering places, which have seen a steady return of business as long-delayed weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and cultural events have once again been held.
The new restrictions must be approved by the Knesset House Committee, which is expected to vote on them in the next day or two.
The new restrictions may be in force for a while, Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy said on Tuesday.
“We haven’t lost control” of the situation, he told Army Radio. “The semantics over whether there’s a ‘second wave’ aren’t useful. The virus is with us” for the foreseeable future, he said.
The cabinet decision urges those holding public events to move them outdoors.
Imminent events scheduled to take place by July 9 will be limited to 250 participants, the Monday decision states.
For the rest of July, from July 10 to 31, outdoor weddings and bar mitzvahs will be limited to 250 participants while indoor ones will face stricter limits: A maximum of 100 participants or 50 percent of the space’s fire-safety capacity, whichever is lower.
Other family gatherings, such as circumcisions and funerals, are limited to 50 attendees.
All houses of worship are limited to gatherings of 50 people.
Universities and colleges were ordered to switch to online exams wherever possible.
The Health Ministry is working on new directives for summer camps, a spokesperson said.
Government agencies have been instructed to send 30 percent of their employees to work from home.