Health Ministry data Monday evening showed 274 coronavirus cases diagnosed over the past 24 hours, continuing the trend of the past week, which has seen 200-300 cases a day on most days.
The latest cases brought the national total to 21,008, of which 4,940 were active cases — 45 of those in serious condition, 29 of whom were on ventilators. Meanwhile 54 people were in moderate condition, while the rest were mild cases.
The death toll stood at 307, the as in the morning.
Earlier Monday, the so-called “coronavirus cabinet,” tasked with leading the government’s response to the virus outbreak, voted to instruct the healthcare system to prepare hospitals around the country to accept a potential additional 2,000 coronavirus patients who will need ventilators.
Ministers also decided to raise the fine for failure to wear masks in public, from NIS 200 ($58) to NIS 500 ($145). And they voted to form a national enforcement directorate to oversee, instruct, and coordinate various enforcement bodies, and said they would seek to strengthen local authorities’ enforcement personnel throughout the country.
Cabinet members also voted for increased testing and protection for at-risk populations, particularly the elderly. And they said they would launch a review into the possibility of employees working in “capsules” — limited, constant groups of workers at any given time, to reduce exposure to others.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers during the meeting that the government must take every measure in order to avoid the extreme scenario of 2,000 ventilated patients, but that, nevertheless, the Health Ministry must prepare for it.
“We are facing a systematic rise in infections,” Netanyahu said at the opening of the meeting.
He said that the policy options under review included dramatically stepping up enforcement of social distancing rules, as well as okaying local lockdowns in outbreak areas and new limitations on public gatherings.
He also mentioned the controversial option of reinstating Shin Bet digital tracking of COVID-19 patients. A leaked recording from Sunday’s coronavirus cabinet aired by Channel 12 showed Netanyahu pushing for the renewal of the contentious means of preventing infections.
The Health Ministry on Sunday instructed hospitals around the country to prepare to reopen their coronavirus wards.
Diagnoses have risen steadily over recent weeks, after being brought down to some 20 cases a day in May, following two months of strict restrictions that shuttered businesses and schools and kept many from being able to travel more than a few hundred feet from home. Train services across the country renewed Monday after three months, but saw depressed ridership numbers.
Worldwide, infections passed 9 million on Monday — more than half of them in Europe and the United States.
The number of cases worldwide has doubled since May 16, with more than a million new cases recorded in the past seven days. The official figures nevertheless reflect only a fraction of the true number, as many countries only test serious cases.
AFP contributed to this report.