The Health Ministry on Thursday recorded 905 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours and two more deaths since Wednesday evening, bringing the national toll from the pandemic to 324.
The new figures came after a lockdown was imposed on parts of Ashdod and Lod early Thursday to contain the spread of the virus, and ministers were set to meet again to discuss further restrictions to rein in the alarming rise in infections. Late Wednesday, the Knesset reinstated the Shin Bet agency’s surveillance program to track virus carriers, effective over the next three weeks.
According to Channel 12, during Thursday’s meeting, health officials will implore ministers to limit the number of patrons permitted to enter a bar, restaurant or event hall to 50. Health officials are also seeking to cap the number of worshipers at prayer gatherings to 20, the TV report said.
The ministry said Thursday there have been 26,452 cases since the start of the pandemic, of which 8,647 were active; 17,481 people have recovered. That marked an increase of over 6,000 new COVID-19 cases over the month of June.
Fifty-eight people are in serious condition, 24 of them on ventilators, while 71 more are in moderate condition. The rest are displaying mild or no symptoms.
The ministry said 20,798 tests were conducted on Wednesday, of which 4.6 percent had a positive result.
Of the cases diagnosed in the past three days, 273 were in Jerusalem, 121 in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, 144 in Ashdod, and 126 in Bnei Brak.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday agreed to convene the so-called coronavirus cabinet to discuss possible further lockdowns on cities with high infection rates and tighter restrictions on public gatherings. According to the Ynet news site, ministers could vote to limit attendance at event halls, bars and restaurants to 50 people.
Addressing a phone conference of the cabinet Wednesday night, Netanyahu told ministers, “Numbers are rising and there is nothing on the horizon to stop them if we don’t act immediately with significant steps.”
Wednesday night saw Israel’s highest single-day tally since the pandemic began, with 1,013 cases diagnosed in 24-hours.
Officials in the Health Ministry are said to be pushing for imposing strict lockdowns in dozens of cities in a dramatic push to contain the outbreak, which Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has warned is the “beginning of a second wave.”
On Tuesday, cabinet ministers imposed new restrictions on public gatherings in a bid to stem the rising infection rate. The main restrictions, approved late Monday by the “coronavirus cabinet,” 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.
Israel managed to bring down the number of daily cases to the low dozens in May after weeks of a nationwide lockdown. Since reopening the economy, however, virus cases quickly began to climb.
The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, which kept its infection rates low in the first months of the pandemic, has this week seen hundreds of daily cases, prompting officials to call a five-day closure in the West Bank, beginning on Friday.