The Health Ministry said Tuesday morning that the daily coronavirus infection rate had rocketed to nearly 5,000 a day earlier as the country prepared for the nationwide lockdown set to begin on Friday.
According to the figures there were 4,973 positive tests for coronavirus the previous day, taking the number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 162,273.
The number of active patients in Israel stood at 40,689.
There were 533 patients in serious condition, including 140 people on ventilators.
The ministry said the death toll from the virus increased by five since late Monday evening, to 1,141.
A total of 47,509 tests were performed on Monday, the highest daily rate since the start of the pandemic, but the positive test rate remained high at 10.8 percent.
According to the figures, there were 1,152 patients hospitalized in Israel with the coronavirus.
Ran Balicer, head of the expert panel that advises coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu, said Tuesday that the spread of the virus in Israel was “out of control.”
“The opening level of the Israeli economy is the most extreme and biggest in the world, and completely out of line with the level of morbidity. The spread of the coronavirus in Israel is out of control and must be stopped now,” he told the Kan public broadcaster.
The figures came as a number of medical centers across the country said they were starting to struggle to cope with the influx of virus patients, the main reason given behind the need for the nationwide lockdown.
The director general of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, located in one of the country’s virus hotspots and the hospital with the highest number of critical COVID-19 patients, told the Kan public broadcaster on Monday evening that the facility was currently unable to accept new coronavirus admissions.
“I closed the hospital to new coronavirus patients. With a heavy heart, I informed Magen David Adom [emergency services] not to transfer patients to me,” Ofer Marin said.
The spike in cases came as Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch warned of deadly consequences if the public ignored regulations and the virus was allowed to continue to spread out of control, and as a report said up to fifty people had been infected as the result of a wedding held in a northern village despite restrictions.
According to Channel 13 news, the celebrations for the wedding in the village of Mazra’a lasted for a week, ending a few days ago. The report said the bride’s parents and uncles were infected at the wedding and they then passed on the virus to colleagues at the schools and laboratory where they work.
The report did not clarify how it could be definitely determined that they had been infected at the wedding.
The lockdown approved by the cabinet on Sunday night — to begin Friday and last at least three weeks — comes as the country has seen infection rates spiral. Evening curfews had already been ordered in dozens of cities and areas last week.
The new rules will keep Israelis within 500 meters of their homes, except for basic needs like food and medicine or for traveling to permitted jobs. They will also shutter schools, malls and hotels; limit gatherings; and ban in-person dining at restaurants. Restaurants will be allowed to do deliveries, but not to serve takeaway food, in a further decision announced Monday night. Israel’s soccer and basketball leagues will continue.
The lockdown, bitterly opposed by many sectors of the workforce, and denounced by the opposition as proof of government failure, will take effect at 2 p.m. on Friday, hours before the start of Rosh Hashanah.
It is scheduled to end with the Simhat Torah holiday, on October 9.
Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy said Monday the government could ease the nationwide lockdown when daily coronavirus infections drop to 1,000 a day, but admitted that final criteria have yet to be set.
“If we see a drop to 1,000 patients, and proper behavior [from the public], and a downward trend in morbidity, and at the same time stabilization in the hospital system, that will be a positive sign to consider coming out of the lockdown. We will put together criteria in the coming days,” he said.