Health Ministry says it undercounted virus deaths, pledges to streamline system

National COVID-19 death toll jumps to 772 with addition of 52 previously unreported fatalities at geriatric facilities

An elderly couple walk in a public park in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem, April 13, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
An elderly couple walk in a public park in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem, April 13, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry admitted to undercounting Israel’s COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, issuing a statement saying that it had failed to include 53 fatalities at senior living homes during July and August in its official count.

The ministry said that Health Minister Yuli Edelstein viewed the matter “very severely” and “ordered a thorough check and that recommendations [for preventing these errors in the future] be brought before him within a week.” These will then be relayed to the public.

Reports of fatalities at geriatric institutions have thus far gone through a different reporting system than other deaths, but going forward, all coronavirus deaths will be reported to a single source and entered into the Health Ministry’s computerized system, ministry director-general Prof. Chezy Levy announced.

The ministry also said that it was “checking whether there were any additional cases that weren’t added” to the total.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein speaks during a press conference about the coronavirus at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem, on June 28, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

With the addition of the new victims, Israel’s death toll swelled to 772 on Wednesday. And with 1,732 new cases reported over 24 hours, the total number of confirmed cases nationwide since the start of the outbreak rose to 96,996, including 23,779 active cases.

Of them, 401 were in serious condition, including 118 on ventilators. Another 157 were in moderate condition, and the rest had mild or no symptoms.

Israel has seen the number of deaths accelerate in recent weeks, recording hundreds of fatalities over last month alone.

The ministry said 26,681 coronavirus test results came back on Tuesday, 6.2 percent of which were positive.

According to a poll released by the Israel Democracy Institute on Wednesday, 45% doubt the nation’s ability to weather the storm and 61% do not trust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to manage the crisis.

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