Daily cases over 1,200 as Israel inches toward new local lockdowns

2 fatalities recorded, with 118 patients in serious condition; shutdown expires in parts of Lod, Ashdod; Health Ministry said to recommend 5 neighborhoods of capital be closed

Police put up roadblocks in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, on July 8, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police put up roadblocks in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, on July 8, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Thursday morning announced that there had been 1,231 new coronavirus cases diagnosed in Israel in the previous 24 hours, as the country seemed to be moving toward local lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus.

The ministry reported two more deaths, bringing the total to 346. There were no immediate details on the fatalities.

According to ministry figures, the total number of virus cases in Israel since the start of the pandemic is 33,947.

There were 15,209 active virus cases, including 118 people in serious condition, and 41 on ventilators. Another 88 people were in moderate condition, and the rest have mild or no symptoms.

Magen David Adom paramedics in protective gear bring a patient suspected of having COVID-19 to the coronavirus unit at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer on July 8, 2020. (Flash90)

The number of serious cases has been steadily increasing since the start of the current outbreak. Two weeks ago Israel had 45 serious coronavirus patients.

The ministry said there were 27,542 tests carried out on Wednesday, a slight decrease on Tuesday’s number.

According to a Channel 12 report on Thursday, the Health Ministry is to recommend ministers lock down some population centers with high rates of COVID-19 infections to curb the virus outbreak.

The restrictions could differ by city, ranging from the bolstering of enforcement to a complete lockdown, depending on the severity of the outbreak.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray next to their homes as synagogues are limited to following the government’s measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in Bnei Brak, Israel, July 9, 2020 (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

According to the report, the ministry’s recommendations were as follows:

Modiin Illit — full closure, including educational institutions and seminaries
Ramle — full closure
Beit Shemesh — closure of two unnamed neighborhoods, shutting educational institutions for children from the age of 9, including seminaries
Lod — renewal of the closure on a number of neighborhoods, with the addition of three further areas
Bnei Brak — closure of all educational institutions in the city, including seminaries
Ashdod — possible extension of closure, although officials remain undecided
Ra’anana — increase testing of those connected to a series of prom parties at center of city’s outbreak
Kiryat Malachi — closure of the Chabad and Ahuzot Rotem neighborhoods of the city, closure of educational institutions for anyone over the age of 9, including seminaries
Jerusalem — closure of the Romema, Ramot, Har Nof, Kiryat Sanz and Ma’alot Dafna neighborhoods as well as closing educational institutions from the age of 9.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion on Thursday wrote to the Health Ministry and warned that a lockdown would turn areas of the capital into “coronavirus incubators.”

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion at the 17th annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, on February 25, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“My unequivocal stance is against the closure,” the mayor wrote, according to Channel 12 news. “The proposed closure may make the neighborhoods into coronavirus incubators. The [reportedly proposed] neighborhoods in Jerusalem are areas where tens of thousands of people live in crowded apartments, and their hermetic closure will lead to mass infection.”

Individuals who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and are unable to fully quarantine at home are supposed to be transferred to one of the coronavirus hotels.

The only area of the country under lockdown on Thursday morning was the ultra-Orthodox city of Beitar Illit, after orders expired for the central cities of Lod and Ashdod, despite their remaining hotspots of coronavirus infections.

According to a Channel 13 news report Thursday, the restriction orders were not discussed by the so-called coronavirus committee and therefore not renewed. Earlier this year, a temporary lockdown on the Bedouin town of Hura near Beersheba was hastily renewed after the measure expired due to a bureaucratic lapse.

Beitar Illit was declared a restricted zone on Tuesday for seven days as coronavirus infections there spiked. The lockdown of the settlement, located south of Jerusalem, went into effect at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews walk in the West Bank Settlement of Beitar Illit on July 8, 2020 (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

Some residents of Beitar Illit who were infected were being transferred to a hotel in northern Israel on Wednesday night to curb the spread in the community.

Several dozen Beitar Illit residents, including children and business owners, protested the closure on Wednesday at the entrance to the city, Channel 12 reported. The protesters directed their fire at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying the government was unfairly targeting ultra-Orthodox communities in its lockdowns. Almost all of the city’s 55,000 residents are ultra-Orthodox.

Officials said Tuesday that Beitar Illit had 240 active cases, representing a rate of increase in active cases in the past week of 224 percent.

Beitar Illit residents protest against a lockdown of the city at its entrance, July 8, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The last few weeks have seen the reversal of many of the gains made in the fight against the coronavirus in recent months. New daily virus cases, which had dropped to low double digits through most of May, have soared to over a thousand a day, and the number of active cases has reached an all-time high.

The country had been placed on a nationwide lockdown for several weeks at the start of the outbreak, but removed most of its restrictions by May to reopen the economy.

The current rate of increase in weekly infections in Israel is one of the highest in the world, according to a chart published Monday afternoon by the Health Ministry.

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