Coronavirus cases in Israel up to 109, including 6-month-old baby

Coronavirus cases in Israel up to 109, including 6-month-old baby

Health Ministry officials estimate actual number of Israeli COVID-19 cases is in the thousands, intends to expand checks as numbers surge

Passengers wearing protective masks in the arrivals halls at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on March 10, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Passengers wearing protective masks in the arrivals halls at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on March 10, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The Health Ministry on Thursday evening updated the number of Israelis found to be carrying the coronavirus to 109, as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country kept surging.

Two patients are in serious condition and five are defined as moderate, the ministry said, hours ahead of an expected announcement that all school in the country will be called off in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Among those who have tested positive for the virus is a six-month-old baby, according to the ministry.

Earlier in the day, the ministry said that among those diagnosed recently were two children, a 10-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl from central Israel. The boy had recently traveled with his father to Spain.

The ministry continued publishing details of the recent whereabouts of the patients to warn the public, including two tourists who had visited a score of major hotels, restaurants and clubs in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea, Mitzpe Ramon, Acre and the Golan Heights during an organized tour on March 3-10.

The mounting cases have led ministry officials to estimate that thousands of Israelis have already been infected and haven’t been diagnosed.

The Ynet news site reported Thursday that authorities planned to dramatically increase the number of coronavirus tests performed each day, from the current 600 to more than 2,000.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (right) and Health Ministry General Manager Moshe Bar Siman-Tov at a press conference about the coronavirus COVID-19, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on March 11, 2020. Netanyahu is explaining how the coronavirus can spread from a sneeze. (Flash90)

The outbreak of the virus continued to disrupt schools, prisons, and some public transportation on Thursday, as hundreds more were sent into home quarantine and the government was reportedly preparing to shut schools nationwide.

Nearly one thousand students and teachers were sent home from the Nazareth Baptist School after it was discovered that a person later found to have the infection had visited the school.

In addition, a school for ultra-Orthodox girls in the West Bank settlement of Modiin Illit sent 60 students into quarantine after they were found to have visited the same location in Jerusalem’s Old City as some tourists who were later found to be infected.

The Health Ministry and Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi announced Wednesday that another of those infected was Rabbi Dov Singer, the head of the Makor Haim yeshiva, a religious high school for boys in the West Bank.

On Wednesday, the condition of an Israeli man infected with the coronavirus deteriorated. Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv said the patient, a 60-year-old worker at Ben Gurion Airport, was in serious condition, under sedation and hooked up to a respirator.

Illustrative: An ambulance, carrying an Israeli woman returning from Italy who displayed symptoms of the coronavirus, arrives at the infectious disease unit at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer on February 28, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The airport worker had not been abroad or in knowing contact with anyone carrying the virus, and so health authorities initially declined to test him for coronavirus. He was initially admitted to Ichilov Hospital on Sunday with flu-like symptoms, but was released the next day without testing for the virus, even though he pleaded to be tested, his family said.

The man was only finally tested for the coronavirus on Tuesday when he was readmitted with pneumonia. He had not been in isolation before then, including at the hospital.

He was the second person in Israel with COVID-19 to be listed in serious condition. The other is a bus driver hospitalized in northern Israel who transported a group of Greek tourists who tested positive for the virus after returning home. His condition is now said to be stable.

The ministry had announced details of 12 cases on late Tuesday evening, including a 9-year-old Tel Aviv boy who had been in Madrid with his family, and a career IDF soldier who had been abroad. Both are in good condition, according to authorities.

All students at the Yoseftal Elementary School in the central town of Azor, where the boy studies, have been told to enter quarantine.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday evening that Israel is limiting public events in enclosed areas to 100 people. The Health Ministry said Thursday that the ban also applies to outdoor events.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference about the coronavirus at the Prime Ministers office in Jerusalem on March 11, 2020. (Flash90)

The ban includes synagogue prayer and weddings, Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov elaborated, adding that higher education institutions could hold classes online, with students studying from home, but this was not yet a formal requirement.

The Habima national theater on Thursday announced it was bringing down the curtain on performances and shutting its doors until April 30 following the announcement limiting public gatherings to 100 people. All performances at the venue in Tel Aviv and around the country have been postponed until after that time.

To curb the spread of the virus in the country, all Israelis returning from overseas are required to quarantine at home for 14 days. Non-Israeli nationals were barred from entering the country starting Thursday at 8 p.m. unless they demonstrate an ability to self-quarantine for two weeks.

The quarantine measures are among the most dramatic to be introduced by any nation in the intensifying battle against the coronavirus. On February 26, Israel had become the first country in the world to advise its citizens against all non-essential overseas travel.

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