Country losing control of virus, Israel Society for Infectious Diseases warns

Country losing control of virus, Israel Society for Infectious Diseases warns

Medical union says average age of patients rising, effective action required immediately; PM: Ministers will approve new restrictions; death toll at 318

A Magen David Adom worker arrives to test a patient with symptoms of coronavirus in Jerusalem on June 23, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom worker arrives to test a patient with symptoms of coronavirus in Jerusalem on June 23, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The head of the Israel Society for Infectious Diseases on Sunday wrote to the director-general of the Health Ministry, warning that the country was on the verge of losing control of the coronavirus epidemic.

In a letter to Chezy Levy, Israel Society for Infectious Diseases head Miri Weinberger warned the Health Ministry that not only was the number of cases increasing, but so was the age of those infected, an indicator that patients could be more severely affected.

“Over the past two weeks, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of daily infections of the coronavirus. In recent days there has also been a rise in the ages of those diagnosed and hospitalized,” Weinberger wrote.

“We are about to lose control of the epidemic in Israel. We are close to the point of no return where there will be mass infection and burdens of severely ill patients. The window for effective action is closing — if we do not begin at the start of this week, we will miss the boat and may even lose control,” Weinberger wrote.

The letter laid out a number of recommendations to control the spread of the virus, the Kan public broadcaster reported, including improving testing and contact tracing, better protection for those treating virus patients, an inventory of effective medicines for treatment and a multi-year plan to deal with epidemics.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 7, 2020. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel’s “coronavirus cabinet,” tasked with leading the government’s response to the virus outbreak, would convene to reimpose some restrictions on gatherings amid the rising infections, as well as increased enforcement of the regulations.

In an interview with Channel 12 news on Saturday, Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said possible measures proposed by the Health Ministry would include limiting youth programs over the summer break, limiting the size of gatherings, and requiring “capsules” at educational institutions and at workplaces, with set groups of employees working the same shifts.

The Health Ministry’s latest data on Sunday morning showed 76 new recorded infections from Saturday evening, bringing the national tally to 23,497.

The death toll, meanwhile, climbed by one to 318. There were no details given on the fatality.

The number of active cases on Sunday morning stood at 6,160, including 45 in serious condition, an increase of four from Saturday evening, among them 24 on ventilators.

There were 50 people in moderate condition, with the rest experiencing only mild symptoms or none.

Three people died on Saturday, including a 19-year-old young woman who died of COVID-19 at Hadassah-Ein Kerem Medical Center on Saturday, making her Israel’s youngest victim of the disease.

Recent days have been showing 400-500 new patients a day on average, numbers not seen since early April.

Figures from last week showed that 2,907 were infected over seven days, more than the number for all of May.

Workers wearing protective clothes disinfect a public playground in Bat Yam on March 18, 2020 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

In a bid to stop the increase in infections, the Knesset on Wednesday night advanced a bill to reinstate the Shin Bet surveillance program aimed at tracking virus carriers and those exposed to them — despite the opposition of the agency itself to the move.

In addition, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the IDF’s Home Front Command to open additional hotels for coronavirus patients and for quarantine purposes. The military is currently running six facilities for those infected and those who cannot adequately self-isolate at home.

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