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As lockdown goes into effect, virus death toll jumps to 1,196

Record number of patients in serious condition and daily infections still over 5,000, far higher than 1,000 daily cases ministry aiming for before it will consider lifting measures

An employee puts away the furniture of a restaurant in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on September 18, 2020, ahead of a nationwide lockdown to tackle a spike in coronavirus cases. (JACK GUEZ/AFP)
An employee puts away the furniture of a restaurant in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on September 18, 2020, ahead of a nationwide lockdown to tackle a spike in coronavirus cases. (JACK GUEZ/AFP)

Israel’s death toll from the coronavirus jumped to 1,196 on Friday as a second national lockdown went into effect, one of the largest single-day jumps in fatalities.

Official Health Ministry numbers Friday evening said that there had been only five new deaths since midnight. However, the toll jumped by 27 from Friday morning, when the ministry said the death toll stood at 1,169.

Asked if there had been a mistake in the figures, Health Ministry spokesman Eyal Basson said, “those are the numbers,” without elaborating further.

The country’s total coronavirus tally stood at 179,071, of which 47,851 were active cases. The previous day’s case count stood at 5,238, continuing the trend of around 5,000 cases per day over the past week.

Patients included 581 in serious condition — 158 of whom were on ventilators — and 245 in moderate condition, representing a record high of patients in a serious condition.

Of the 57,971 tests analyzed Thursday, 9.3 percent came back positive.

The numbers were released as Israel’s new national coronavirus lockdown, the country’s second this year, entered into effect Friday at 2 p.m., marking the first time in the world an advanced country has imposed a repeat closure to curb the pandemic.

Police establish a roadblock on a road leading to Ein Hemed, near Jerusalem, on September 18, 2020, as a national lockdown comes into effect (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The figure is far higher than the 1,000 daily cases the Health Ministry is aiming for before it will consider lifting some of the lockdown measures, which will see movement restricted, leisure sites closed and the education system shuttered, among other limitations.

The three-week shutdown, requiring the closure of many businesses and setting strict limits on movement and public gatherings, started just hours before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and will extend through other key religious holidays, including Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

Some 7,000 policemen and soldiers, backed up by local municipality personnel, were to deploy throughout the country to enforce the closure using roadblocks and patrols, amid concerns that an exhausted and exasperated Israeli public will be far less cooperative with the new sweeping restrictions than during the initial wave of the pandemic.

Fines for individuals who break rules are set at NIS 500 ($145) and for businesses at NIS 5,000 ($1,450).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ahead of the closure that the government had been left with no choice but to impose a lockdown.

“The health system has raised the red flag… We did everything we could to strike a balance between the health needs and needs of the economy,” he said in a televised address on Thursday.

While the government was praised for its initial handling of the pandemic, implementing a strict lockdown in March, many Israelis have expressed frustration at the cabinet’s perceived mismanagement of the health crisis in recent months.

“This is no way to close a country,” ran a headline in the top-selling daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday, which featured interviews with doctors, economists and teachers all opposed to the lockdown.

Israel is the first advanced country to impose a second lockdown, though many Western nations have seen a new surge of virus cases in recent weeks, and some are considering fresh restrictions.

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