Cabinet ministers imposed new restrictions on public gatherings in a bid to stem the rising infection rate of the coronavirus, as the Health Ministry on Tuesday recorded 714 new infections in a 24-hour period.
The goal of the rules, say officials, is to avoid a general shutdown by calibrating the new limitations to reach a steady and predictable infection rate that doesn’t overload the healthcare system.
“I can’t promise that there won’t be a general closure,” Finance Minister Israel Katz told Army Radio Tuesday morning, “but I’ll do everything I can to prevent it. A general closure would be a disaster for the economy.”
The Health Ministry on Tuesday morning said there were 714 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, surpassing daily tallies over the past month, which have been on the rise. The number of active cases climbed Tuesday to 7,096. Of those diagnosed, 46 were in serious condition, 24 of them on ventilators. Another 66 were in moderate condition, with the rest showing mild or no symptoms.
The ministry also reported another death, bringing the toll since the start of the pandemic to 320. It said 18,624 tests were conducted on Monday as it expands its testing capabilities to reduce the spread.
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’ isn’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.