Virus cases see largest spike in a month with 116 new diagnoses in 24 hours

Death toll rises to 290 with 5 new deaths; Health Ministry reportedly set to recommend shuttering all high schools to curb infection rates

Israelis wearing face masks walk in Jerusalem on June 2, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israelis wearing face masks walk in Jerusalem on June 2, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

With government officials warning of the need to tighten restrictions in the face of a possible second coronavirus wave, the death toll from the pandemic rose to 290 Tuesday evening as the number of daily cases saw the largest spike in a month.

The death toll was up from 285 Monday night and 287 Tuesday morning, official figures showed.

The latest update stated that a total of 17,285 people had been infected with the virus, up by 116 from Monday night. The number of active cases, which dipped below 2,000 last week, continued to grow and stood at 2,055.

Of them, 29 were listed as in serious condition and on ventilators. Forty were in moderate condition, and the rest were displaying mild or no symptoms.

Israel has taken steps in recent weeks to roll back its virus restrictions, reopening schools, synagogues, malls, restaurants and other spaces. While social distancing and hygiene guidelines remain in place, many people have taken a more relaxed attitude as the virus appeared to wane, often ignoring instructions to wear masks in most settings outside the home.

After several weeks in which infections hovered around 20-30 daily cases, however, Thursday saw a rise to 79, followed by a significant jump of 115 new infections on Friday, the first time that the 100 mark was breached since May 2. Subsequent days have continued the trend of higher numbers, with 98 cases reported Monday.

Health officials have attributed the jump to public complacency and a failure to heed social distancing rules.

According to the Health Ministry, most of the new cases are centered in schools. One institution, the Gymnasia Rehavia high school in Jerusalem, has seen 159 students and staff infected over the past week.

The entrance to the Gymnasia Rehavia high school in Jerusalem on May 29, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Education Ministry said earlier Tuesday that a total of 217 people had been confirmed to be infected in schools and kindergartens throughout the country in recent days, that 9,935 students and education staff members were in quarantine and that 31 institutions had temporarily closed down over the past week.

On Tuesday, the TALI Geulim school in Jerusalem joined the ranks of institutions in the city where cases had been discovered.

As a result of the infections in schools, the Health Ministry is expected to call for all high schools and middle schools to be shut for the rest of the school year, Channel 12 news reported Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, Deputy Health Ministry Director General Itamar Grotto told a Knesset committee overseeing the coronavirus response that restrictions on the public would be reimposed if more than 100 cases a day are identified that aren’t mostly connected to a single local outbreak.

“Right now, when it’s focused in one place, we have a containment plan that doesn’t involve the whole population,” he said.

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