Five more people in serious condition from virus, 945 total cases reported

24 people listed in moderate condition and the remainder have mild symptoms as strict new regulations go into effect in attempt to control outbreak

An Israeli firefighter sprays disinfectant at the entrance of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv on March 20, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
An Israeli firefighter sprays disinfectant at the entrance of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv on March 20, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The Health Ministry announced Sunday morning that 945 people in Israel have been diagnosed with the coronavius, including 20 people in serious condition.

The new numbers showed a fairly modest jump of 62 new cases reported since late Saturday morning, but a worrying bump of five new people in a life-threatening state.

The ministry said 24 people were in moderate condition and the rest had mild symptoms. Thirty-seven people have recovered, one more than the last update a day earlier.

The 62 new cases showed a slowdown after Israel saw numbers spike from 529 to 877 in two days, from Thursday morning to Saturday morning, but the lower number could be seen as an effect of fewer tests being carried out on Saturday.

The head of the Israel Association of Biochemists, Microbiologists and Laboratory Workers on Friday accused the Health Ministry of not allowing medical laboratories around Israel to operate at full capacity during Shabbat, limiting the number of coronavirus tests they could perform. The Health Ministry denied the claim.

Medical staff seen after the arrival of a patient to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, over suspicions she may be infected with the Coronavirus on January 27, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said Thursday it had ramped up to around 2,000 tests a day, but has not released any figures for the number of tests run since then. The Magen David Adom emergency Service said Saturday it collected some 3,700 swab samples for testing over the weekend, but it was unclear how many were run for tests in labs.

Aryeh Even, Israel’s first fatality in the coronavirus pandemic (Courtesy)

Israel’s first fatality from the virus, 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even, was buried overnight in a funeral service that was capped at 20 mourners. All present were required to stand at a two-meter (6.5 ft) distance from one another, according to Channel 12.

Ministers late Saturday night updated emergency regulations, which came into effect on Sunday at 8 a.m. for the next seven days, aimed at keeping Israelis at home and to be enforced by police.

Updated: When are Israelis allowed to leave home? The specifics

According to the new rules, which the government has vowed to enforce, Israelis must remain at home, with exceptions made for buying essential food and medical supplies or seeking medical treatment. Other exceptions include attending demonstrations, aiding an elderly or ill person, blood donations, attending court hearings, seeking aid from welfare services, going to the Knesset, and attending religious services, including weddings and funerals (which must have no more than 10 people present) or visiting a ritual bath (mikveh).

Israelis were permitted to exercise outdoors, with no more than two people together, and to venture out for short walks near their homes. The ban also limited the number of people who could drive in a car to two, unless they were members of the same household (this does not apply to “essential” errands, carpools of essential workers to and from work, and delivery services).

The head of the coronavirus treatment team at the Health Ministry said Sunday that if people abide by new directives and stay home, Israel will start to see the results in approximately 10 days.

“Self-isolation is very helpful and we will see the results in around ten days. Hopefully the self-isolation will flatten the curve significantly,” Dr. Boaz Lev told the Kan public broadcaster, referring to the protocol which tries to prevent a surge in the number of people requiring hospitalization at the same time.

This March 19, 2020 photo shows playground at Tel Aviv’s beachfront wrapped in tape to prevent public access (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The disease generally only shows mild symptoms in the young and healthy, but can cause serious respiratory issues and death in older adults and those with underlying conditions.

Health Ministry figures showed the number of medical professionals infected and quarantined by coronavirus continued to grow Saturday, with 42 medical staff diagnosed with the virus and 3,030 in quarantine due to potential exposure. Of those in isolation, 814 were doctors and 893 were nurses.

Recent days have seen rising criticism of the conditions in which medical practitioners have been forced to work in the pandemic, and the health system’s ill-preparedness for the outbreak. Medical workers have criticized the government and the Health Ministry for not providing them with adequate equipment to protect against catching the virus from the patients they are treating.

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