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In deadliest day since start of pandemic, 17 succumb to virus in 24 hours

Health Ministry says 1,731 new virus cases diagnosed in past day; 369 are in serious condition, 110 on ventilators

Illustrative: Magen David Adom workers wearing protective clothing move a patient outside the coronavirus unit at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on July 27, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Illustrative: Magen David Adom workers wearing protective clothing move a patient outside the coronavirus unit at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on July 27, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Israel’s death toll from the coronavirus rose to 639 on Wednesday night, as Israel appeared to mark its deadliest day since the start of the pandemic, with 17 fatalities recorded over the past 24 hours.

The Health Ministry tallied another 1,731 coronavirus cases since Tuesday night, bringing the total number of infections to 87,878.

Of the 25,614 active cases, 369 people are in serious condition, 110 of them on ventilators, and another 156 are in moderate condition, according to the data. The remainder are displaying mild or no symptoms.

The ministry said 27,555 tests were conducted on Tuesday, with 6.8 percent returning positive.

Jerusalem residents wearing face masks for fear of coronavirus walk in the city center of Jerusalem on August 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel recorded 15 deaths on August 3, the previous high. There have been around 10 fatalities a day since mid-July, as the second wave of the virus has showed few signs of slowing down.

On Tuesday, Israel surpassed China in total number of cases since the pandemic began.

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu earlier on Wednesday visited the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem, which has been operating above capacity amid an influx of coronavirus patients. During his visit, Gamzu pledged to push for greater funding for the Jerusalem hospital.

The capital is the country’s most infected city, with 3,767 active cases.

In a meeting with the municipality, Gamzu said that large gatherings were driving the infections, including weekly protests outside the Prime Minister’s Residence.

The latest virus figures came as ministers debated a plan to “reopen the skies” and increase the number of flights in and out of the country. The government on Thursday afternoon will unveil a list of countries in which Israelis may enter without quarantine, according to the Health Ministry.

Virus czar Ronni Gamzo, seen during a meeting with Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion at the Jerusalem city hall on August 12, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Also Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government is “doing everything” to ensure that the new school year will begin on September 1 as planned, amid concerns over reopening due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“That is the target date and it hasn’t changed,” he said while meeting with the education, health and finance ministers.

The director-general of the Health Ministry, Chezy Levy, earlier this week cast doubt that schools would be able to begin on time, as the Education Ministry insisted the date has not moved.

Fresh restrictions went into effect Tuesday morning that continue to cap gatherings at 20 people outdoors and 10 indoors, limit cars to three (non-family) passengers at a time, and limit businesses to one customer on the premises for every seven square meters (75 square feet) of space.

Businesses are prohibited from serving customers who are not wearing masks, must take the temperature of those who ask to enter the premises, and must post signs detailing appropriate behavior.

Shared eating spaces in open-air markets and in shopping malls will be closed. Deliveries must be left outside recipients’ doors.

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