Health minister says Israel has ‘stopped the rise in infections’

At press conference, Edelstein encouraged by declining infection rate; virus czar urges ultra-Orthodox community to heed rules; PM says vaccine prospects ‘encouraging’

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein speaks during a press conference at Hadassah Hospital, Ein Kerem, in Jerusalem. on July 15, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein speaks during a press conference at Hadassah Hospital, Ein Kerem, in Jerusalem. on July 15, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Sunday that the number of coronavirus cases in the country was stabilizing, but cautioned that it was not enough.

“We managed to stop the rise in infections,” Edelstein said at a press conference.

“It’s good, but it’s certainly not enough. The numbers are still high and worrisome, including the number of serious patients,” added Edelstein.

The number of serious cases on Sunday evening climbed to 342, above the Health Ministry’s “red line” of 250.

The new coordinator of the government’s COVID-19 response, Ronni Gamzu, said that the government would not be “hasty” in lifting the current restrictions on daily life and parts of the economy designed to prevent infections.

“We want to create enforcement that is correct, and to have clear rules this time,” he said, after weeks in which restrictions came and went in a matter of days, without any explanation of the rationale.

Prof. Ronni Gamzu, the government’s new coronavirus czar, during a press conference at the Health Ministry on July 23, 2020. (YouTube screenshot)

However, Gamzu urged the public not to “pressure” the government to ease restrictions, adding: “It will be easier to remove restrictions when the [infections] chart starts going down.”

Gamzu directed his next comments at the ultra-Orthodox community, while stressing that all Israelis must keep social distancing and wear masks.

“It’s very important during this time to keep the rules. It’s very important for us to lower the infection rates…. It depends on you all,” he told the Haredi communities.

“We want to get to the holidays [in September] with all the cities [in Israel] becoming green [low infection],” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference at the Health Ministry, July 23, 2020. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke at the press conference, saying ministers would meet Monday to discuss Gamzu’s plan to curb the outbreak.

The proposal will focus on how to “cut the chain of infection,” said Netanyahu.

He also reiterated praise for government stimulus payouts, which began Sunday.

“We are buying options for vaccines. I can’t tell you that a vaccine will be found, but the signs, today, are encouraging,” added Netanyahu.

The Health Ministry said Sunday evening that five more people had died since the morning, taking the national death toll to 536.

Of the 26,386 active cases, 342 people were in serious condition, up from 328 Saturday night (with 96 on ventilators). Another 141 people were in moderate condition and the rest had mild or no symptoms.

The ministry flagged Bnei Brak, Modiin Illit, Elad, Kafr Misr and Mevo Horon as hotspot areas where more testing was needed.

The Health Ministry also announced there was a fresh outbreak at the King Solomon nursing home in Bnei Brak, which was discovered after a carer fell ill last week. Testing led to the discovery of another eight residents who were infected with the virus but were asymptomatic.

Soldiers of the Home Front Command Unit wearing full protective clothing at a nursing home in the city of Bnei Brak, April 14, 2020. (Flash90)

The ministry said that as long as the residents remained asymptomatic, they would stay at the nursing home rather than be transferred to a hospital, as it was believed to be the safest option given their fragile physical and mental states.

At the height of the first wave of the outbreak, the coronavirus spread quickly in nursing homes around the country, and at one stage was responsible for around a third of the national death toll.

Meanwhile, Channel 13 news reported that the Health Ministry has decided that the quarantine period for those who recover from the virus will be changed to 14 days from when they are tested, if the result is negative, rather than 14 days from the time the negative test results are received. This is expected to shorten quarantine time for recovering patients.

There was no official announcement on the matter.

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