Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday approved the call-up of 500 IDF reservists to help combat the renewed spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which many in Israel believe has entered a second wave.
The decision was made in light of fresh assessments about the pandemic. Most of the troops will be used as staff at 10 coronavirus hotels the Defense Ministry plans to reopen to house people with light symptoms or who require preventive quarantine, Gantz’s office said in a statement.
The IDF Home Front Command was also instructed to set up headquarters in a number of Israeli cities and towns to help distribute information to residents and to safely move coronavirus patients to hospitals and hotels.
The Health Ministry on Thursday morning recorded 905 new coronavirus infections over 24 hours and two more deaths since Wednesday evening, bringing the national toll from the pandemic to 324.
The ministry said Thursday there have been 26,452 cases since the start of the pandemic, of which 8,647 are active, while 17,481 people have recovered. The month of June saw over 6,000 new COVID-19 cases.
The new figures came after a lockdown was imposed on parts of Ashdod and Lod early Thursday to contain the spread of the virus, and ministers were set to meet again to discuss further restrictions to rein in the alarming rise in infections. Late Wednesday, the Knesset reinstated the Shin Bet agency’s surveillance program to track virus carriers, effective over the next three weeks.
Wednesday night saw Israel’s highest single-day tally since the pandemic began, with 1,013 cases diagnosed in 24 hours.
Officials in the Health Ministry are said to be pushing for imposing strict lockdowns in dozens of cities in a dramatic push to contain the outbreak.
Israel managed to bring down the number of daily cases to the low dozens in May after weeks of a nationwide lockdown. After the economy reopened, however, virus cases quickly began to climb.
Gantz’s office also announced on Thursday that he had ordered the military’s liaison office to the Palestinians “to prepare to assist the Palestinian population.”
The Palestinian Authority, which kept its infection rates low in the first months of the pandemic, has this week seen hundreds of daily cases, prompting officials to declare a five-day closure in the West Bank, beginning on Friday.
As of Wednesday, the total number of coronavirus infections in the West Bank stood at 2,686, of which 2,226 were active. The Palestinian Health Ministry said that of 3,085 cases that have been recorded since the beginning of the crisis in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, 78 percent of the cases were confirmed in the last two weeks alone.
All West Bank governorates will be locked down and all businesses will be closed except for pharmacies and supermarkets. Travel and movement for non-essential reasons will be prohibited. Public sector workers will be asked to stay home as well, Palestinian Authority spokesperson Ibrahim Milhim confirmed on Wednesday.