Five new deaths take Israel’s toll to 252, amid sharp drop in virus testing

Five new deaths take Israel’s toll to 252, amid sharp drop in virus testing

Fewer than 3,000 COVID-19 tests conducted Sunday as total number of cases rises to 16,477

Medical workers at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv treat a patient in the coronavirus unit on May 4, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Medical workers at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv treat a patient in the coronavirus unit on May 4, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 252 Sunday, with five additional deaths recorded throughout the day, according to Health Ministry data.

No information was immediately provided on the fatalities.

There were 24 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed Sunday, bringing the country’s total to 16,477. Additionally, 127 people recovered from the virus, bringing the number of those currently sick down to 4,795.

According to the Health Ministry data, 74 people were in serious condition from the virus, 65 of them on ventilators. Another 47 were in moderate condition.

Shoppers at the Malha Mall in Jerusalem, shortly after its reopening, May 7, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Sunday saw a sharp drop in coronavirus tests conducted. After the daily number had consistently been over 8,000 for a week, there were just 2,982 tests on Sunday and 3,649 on Saturday.

Israel has the lab capacity to test up to 15,000 people for COVID-19 daily but demand has gone down, as fewer suspected cases show up to have swabs taken, the Health Ministry said last month.

Israel has seen 531 new confirmed cases in the last 10 days, an average of just 53 per day.

Israel on Saturday evening marked two weeks since more than 200 virus cases were last recorded in any 24-hour period.

It also marked one week since there were more than 100 new cases in any single day.

After the Health Ministry announced no new deaths Saturday morning — the first time there were no fatalities during a 24-hour period since March 28 — the death toll then rose by seven in 36 hours.

Medical workers stand outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on May 5, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Health Ministry deputy director Itamar Grotto said Sunday that the coming week will prove “decisive” as to whether the government will be able to continue rolling back restrictions or, if COVID-19 spikes again, will be forced to reinstate them, and told Army Radio that a return of cases in the summer is a real possibility.

“We are preparing for a number of scenarios in which we remain in the same situation [of some degree of restrictions] until winter and also consider the possibility of another wave in the summer,” Grotto said.

Amid the sustained drop in infections, the government has increasingly rolled back restrictions meant to curb the outbreak, opening some schools and allowing many businesses to reopen, and was reportedly planning more such measures.

Children return to a kindergarten in Jerusalem on May 10, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Sunday morning, hundreds of thousands of children returned to daycare for the first time in almost two months, a day after some 15,000 Israelis visited national parks and nature reserves across the country were allowed reopen, while on Friday thousands of Israelis flocked to beaches, despite their continued closure.

Malls and outdoor markets were allowed to reopen Thursday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that all lockdown restrictions could be removed by the middle of June and the government last week canceled the 100-meter limit on Israelis traveling from their homes for activities deemed nonessential, as well as measures preventing people from visiting with family. He warned, though, that Israel could have to reassess enforcing social distancing measures if there are more than 100 new coronavirus cases a day, a doubling of cases within 10 days, or over 250 people with serious symptoms in hospitals.

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