The Health Ministry estimates that Israel will have 1,000 COVID-19 patients in serious condition in three weeks, Israeli television reported Tuesday, as the number of active coronavirus cases passed 30,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
According to Channel 12 news, the ministry presented the forecast to ministers on Monday during a meeting led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, explaining the figure was based on a predicted deterioration in health of those who already have contracted the virus.
There were 256 people with COVID-19 in serious condition on Tuesday evening.
The report said Health Ministry officials also told ministers the health system can only comfortably handle up to 750 serious patients, but didn’t elaborate on how hospitals would cope beyond that.
Unnamed ministers were quoted as saying by the network they came away from the meeting with the understanding the government is preparing to impose a nationwide lockdown soon, with deliberations on the matter expected to begin Thursday.
The reported forecast suggested that even if the current level of 1,800-1,900 new infections a day drops off in the coming weeks, the Health Ministry predicts a surge in serious cases among those already sick with the virus.
The prediction was sharply at odds with the outlook of a group of researchers at Hebrew University, one of whom told The Times of Israel on Tuesday there was “cause for optimism” and that the latest statistics indicated a renewed lockdown wasn’t necessary.
The Health Ministry has previously taken flak for what were criticized as overly-dire forecasts about the pandemic, including its warning that 5,000 people could require ventilators in a second outbreak.
According to the latest ministry figures, there have been 53,559 infections in Israel as of Tuesday evening, including 30,488 active cases.
The data showed 1,883 new cases recorded over the past day and two more deaths since the morning, bringing the national toll to 424.
The number of people in serious condition stood at 256, including 77 on ventilators. There were 129 people in moderate condition and the rest had mild or no symptoms.
The ministry also said 27,299 coronavirus tests were processed Monday.
While the number of new cases per day dropped to the low dozens by May, Israel has seen a spike in infections since it reopened schools, rolled back limitations on movement and eased most restrictions on the economy. The cabinet has reimposed far-reaching restrictions in a bid to halt the continued rise in new infections, but is at odds with the Knesset on the extent of the new measures.
The Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee on Tuesday reversed a cabinet decision to shutter restaurants except for takeout and delivery, a day after overruling the cabinet by deciding to keep beaches and pools open on weekends.