Health chiefs: Weddings may be scaled back, older people should stay off buses

Health chiefs: Weddings may be scaled back, older people should stay off buses

Ministry’s director-general says restrictions discussed as virus cases rise, but day camps can open for younger children

A couple celebrates their wedding at a public park in Efrat, March 15, 2020. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
A couple celebrates their wedding at a public park in Efrat, March 15, 2020. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy on Thursday said the number of guests allowed at weddings may be reduced as coronavirus infection levels surge.

“Additional restrictions are on the table for discussion, such as whether we take a step back in the area of events held in halls,” Levy told Army Radio. “Weddings may have to be smaller, if there is no choice.”

Earlier this month, cabinet ministers approved events of up to 250 people for weddings and religious ceremonies such as circumcisions and bar and bat mitzvahs, even as cases were rising. Cultural events are also now permitted for up to 250 people with certain limitations and the Culture Ministry can issue a permit for an event of up to 500 people in certain situations.

Levy also said Thursday that day camps for younger children would be allowed to open, but not for older children and teenagers, without clearly defining the cutoff. It was unclear if the matter would require a ministerial vote.

Prof. Chezy Levy (Health Ministry)

“We will allow day camps if the framework ensures children’s health, but summer camps will not be [opened] because of the behavior of young people,” he said. “We are now discussing the outline and want groups to be limited, but the numbers have not yet been confirmed. We will need social distancing to be maintained and monitoring to prevent contagion as much as possible.”

Sigal Sadetzky, head of public health services in the Health Ministry, told the Ynet news site Thursday she would advise older people not to go to events or use public transportation unless necessary.

Prof. Sigal Sadetzky speaks at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem on May 31, 2020 (Flash90)

“We may have opened too quickly. The public is not disciplined or wearing masks,” Sadetzky said. “There is an increase in the number of new patients and I am worried. We are still protecting the elderly and the populations at risk more than the rest, but it can never be totally effective.”

The statements by the officials came just before the Health Ministry reported 473 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours as the surge of infections continued.

Of the 5,870 active cases, 49 people were in serious condition, an increase of three since the night before, 29 of whom were on ventilators, the ministry said. Another 45 Israelis were in moderate condition, an increase of four, and the rest had mild symptoms or were asymptomatic.

People wait for a bus in downtown Jerusalem on June 18, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said 17,682 tests were carried out on Wednesday, with a 2.6 percent positive rate. The figure was lower than Tuesday, when 19,533 tests were administered, the highest daily number, with a 2.3% infection rate.

A total of 189 people were hospitalized due to the virus, and 15,961 had recovered.

There were no new fatalities as of Thursday morning, with the death toll remaining at 308.

The jump in infections came after experts reportedly warned ministers the country was on the cusp of “losing control” over the renewed outbreak. Wednesday saw the highest daily total of new cases in over two months, the Ynet news site reported.

In a bid to stop the increase, the Knesset on Wednesday night advanced a bill to reinstate the Shin Bet surveillance to track virus carriers and those exposed to them — despite the opposition of the agency to the move.

In addition, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the IDF’s Home Front Command to open additional hotels for coronavirus patients and for quarantine purposes. The army is currently running six facilities for those infected and those who cannot adequately self-isolate at home.

Israelis, wearing facemasks for fear of the coronavirus, shop for groceries at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem after it reopened according to the new government orders, June 16, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Also on Wednesday, a partial lockdown went into effect on Elad, an ultra-Orthodox town in central Israel, and parts of the northern city of Tiberias. They will remain in place for a week in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

The sharp climb in the number of cases has stoked fears of a second virus wave and led the Health Ministry on Sunday to instruct hospitals around the country to prepare to reopen their coronavirus wards.

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