Health chief predicts decline in COVID-19 cases in two weeks

Health chief predicts decline in COVID-19 cases in two weeks

But Chezy Levy says drop not sufficient to cut chains of infection; NSC reportedly pushing for further restrictions; presentation of Gamzu plan reportedly delayed

People walk in Jerusalem on August 12, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
People walk in Jerusalem on August 12, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy said Thursday that although he expects there to be a decrease in the number of coronavirus cases in Israel in around two weeks’ time, the numbers will not be sufficiently low that chains of infection can be effectively broken.

“Under the current conditions, in about two weeks there will be a decrease and stabilization in the extent of the [spread of the] disease. We will not yet reach the low numbers that will allow efficiency in breaking the chains of infections, but we will be on our way there,” Levy told Army Radio.

Levy earlier this week cast doubt that schools would be able to open as planned on September 1, despite insistence from the Education Ministry the date has not moved. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday the government is “doing everything” to ensure that the new school year will begin on September 1, amid concerns over reopening due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I agree with the need to renew the studies,” Levy said on Thursday. “We will have another discussion closer to the start of the [academic] year.”

Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy during a press conference in Jerusalem about the coronavirus on July 13, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Levy’s statement came as the National Security Council was reportedly pushing for further restrictions to be imposed to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and a day after Israel appeared to mark its deadliest day since the start of the pandemic.

According to a report from Army Radio, the NSC warned the government that if further steps to impose restrictions were not taken immediately, the country could soon see hundreds of patients in serious condition, with the health system unable to cope.

The outlet reported that the message was sent to ministers although the Health Ministry does not currently have plans to recommend further restrictions.

Unnamed senior health officials also told the outlet that a new model for the imposing of regulations, formulated by coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu, will not yet be brought before lawmakers for consideration.

Virus czar Ronni Gamzo, seen during a meeting with Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion at the Jerusalem city hall on August 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel’s death toll from the coronavirus rose to 643 on Thursday morning.

The ministry recorded 17 fatalities between Tuesday and Wednesday evening, a new record.

The Health Ministry on Thursday morning tallied another 1,560 coronavirus cases since Wednesday night, bringing the total number of infections to 88,733.

Of the 23,416 active cases, 386 people are in serious condition, 114 of them on ventilators, and another 153 are in moderate condition, according to the data. The remainder are displaying mild or no symptoms.

The ministry said Wednesday that 25,030 tests were conducted on Tuesday, with 6.7 percent returning positive.

Jerusalem residents wearing face masks for fear of coronavirus walk in the city center of Jerusalem on August 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel recorded 15 deaths on August 3, the previous high. There have been around 10 fatalities a day since mid-July, as the second wave of the virus has showed few signs of slowing down.

On Tuesday, Israel surpassed China in total number of cases since the pandemic began.

The latest virus figures came as ministers debated a plan to “reopen the skies” and increase the number of flights in and out of the country. The government on Thursday afternoon will unveil a list of countries in which Israelis may enter without quarantine, according to the Health Ministry.

Fresh restrictions went into effect Tuesday morning that continue to cap gatherings at 20 people outdoors and 10 indoors, limit cars to three (non-family) passengers at a time, and limit businesses to one customer on the premises for every seven square meters (75 square feet) of space.

Businesses are prohibited from serving customers who are not wearing masks, must take the temperature of those who ask to enter the premises, and must post signs detailing appropriate behavior. Shared eating spaces in open-air markets and in shopping malls will be closed. Deliveries must be left outside recipients’ doors.

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