COVID-19 cases in Israel jump to 298; nearly 1/4 showed no symptoms
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COVID-19 cases in Israel jump to 298; nearly 1/4 showed no symptoms

Less than one-third of cases display both fever and respiratory symptoms, Health Ministry data shows; 98 of sick contracted disease in Israel; 21 recently returned from Spain

People wearing protective masks arrive at Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital on March 16, 2020, in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
People wearing protective masks arrive at Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital on March 16, 2020, in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The Health Ministry on Monday night said the number of COVID-19 cases in Israel has climbed to 298, as data shared by the authorities showed that one-quarter of those infected by the coronavirus showed no symptoms.

Four of the cases were in serious condition and nine were showing moderate symptoms.

The data, based on 250 confirmed cases in Israel, underlined that 59 (24 percent) were asymptomatic upon diagnosis, 66 (26%) experienced respiratory symptoms, but no fever, while 41 (16%) ran a fever, but had no breathing difficulties or cough.

A plurality (74 cases, 29%), though still under one-third, had both a fever and respiratory symptoms — the conditions under which Israel’s emergency services are most likely to grant a COVID-19 test to those who have not returned from abroad or been in direct contact with someone infected. The symptoms in 11 other cases were classified as “unknown.”

The ministry did not specify how those who were asymptomatic were identified as carrying the virus, but health authorities have been testing those exposed to confirmed cases.

A man walks by closed shops and restaurants in Tel Aviv, on March 15, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

According to the Health Ministry figures, most of those carrying the virus had recently returned from abroad, though spread within Israel was catching up (98 cases).

The country with the largest numbers of Israeli travelers who were later diagnosed with COVID-19 was Spain, with 21 cases. Sixteen had recently returned from Italy and Austria, respectively, followed by 14 who came from France. Twelve of the cases had entered Israel from the United States, and another dozen from the United Kingdom. Eight each of those sick with the coronavirus had returned from Germany and Egypt.

Israel also saw two cases each among recent travelers to the Netherlands and Bulgaria, and a single case each from Belgium, Azerbaijan, Tunis, Japan, Malta, and Denmark.

Another 26 cases are still under investigation, the ministry said.

A plurality of those confirmed to be carrying the virus are in their 30s (23%), with the next common age group those in their 40s (18%) and their 20s (13%). Children and teenagers accounted for just 10% of the infections.

Some 22% of those who have fallen ill are over 60 (12% between 60 and 69; 10% over 70).

Over 50,000 Israelis are currently in quarantine.

Passengers wear masks at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, March 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Health Ministry said earlier that it was considering dramatically increasing its restrictions on movement in a bid to further slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“We may ask people to leave the house less, and only for necessary errands. The government is considering a general closure on all citizens, and if that happens it would mean all age groups will be asked to stay home until further notice,” the ministry’s deputy director general, Itamar Grotto, said Monday.

On Saturday, the government announced the latest wave of restrictions, saying all educational institutions would be shuttered and gatherings limited to no more than 10 people at any one time.

On Sunday, all “non-essential” businesses, including malls, restaurants, and most stores, were shut down.

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