In alarming spike, 179 new virus cases recorded in 24 hours

No new deaths reported, but trend of rising diagnoses continues; Education Ministry says 63 schools to reopen this week after being closed due to contagion

People wearing face masks walk in Jerusalem on June 8, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)
People wearing face masks walk in Jerusalem on June 8, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

The government on Monday evening reported 179 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, in what appeared to be the highest such figure in over a month.

According to figures released by the National Security Council, there were 2,620 active virus cases, with 18,049 infections recorded since the start of the pandemic.

The sick included 29 people in serious condition, 23 of whom were on ventilators. Another 44 Israelis were in moderate condition and the rest had mild symptoms. There were no new fatalities, with the death toll remaining at 298.

The new infections marked the highest daily toll since late April.

After a sustained drop in the infection rate, Israel has seen a jump in new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing Monday that the government would halt the further easing of restrictions due to the spike.

Health officials have attributed much of the recent rise in new virus cases to schools, which reopened in May after a two-month closure.

A cleaning workers disinfects a classroom at the Gymnasia Rehavia high school in Jerusalem on June 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meanwhile the Education Ministry on Monday said dozens of schools that were shut after students or staff contracted the coronavirus will reopen this week.

Of the 135 educational institutions closed due to virus infections, 63 will reopen in the coming days after finishing what the ministry called “preventive quarantine.”

“The [education] system continues to closely follow the infection rate and to respond on a case-by-case basis wherever needed,” the ministry wrote on Twitter.

It also said there were currently 385 students and teachers sick with COVID-19, with another 17,605 in quarantine.

The government last week decided against closing schools, but said it could use targeted closures anywhere a coronavirus case is found to help stem the recent spike in infections. Students and teachers are required to wear face masks and are supposed to keep to strict hygiene practices.

Also Monday, 10 workers at the Club Hotel in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat tested positive for the virus. The workers had been in quarantine since last week after coming into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 carrier, according to the Ynet news site.

The hotel said the workers did not come into contact with any guests and wore masks and gloves at work.

“We’re in touch with the Health Ministry and are acting in accordance with its instructions,” the hotel said in a statement to the news site.

People at the Red Sea in the southern city of Eilat on May 13, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Netanyahu lamented Sunday what he called a “serious slackening in observing the rules” aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, warning that Israel was still at grave risk from the pandemic, and imploring the public to do more to contain the country’s resurgent outbreak.

On Saturday, Channel 12 news reported that the outgoing director-general of the Health Ministry had urged senior staff to operate under the assumption that the country is in the midst of a fresh coronavirus outbreak, while acknowledging that the magnitude of this “second wave” was unknown. Moshe Bar Siman-Tov denied making the comments and told the network a second wave is not inevitable, “if we operate properly.”

The jump in new cases came after the daily infection rate had dropped steadily through much of May, with Israel easing restrictions on movement, economic activity, and gatherings that were put in place to contain the virus.

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