Israel announces 348 new confirmed virus cases, bringing total to 4,695

Daily total of 450 cases shows marked drop from earlier 24-period; 79 patients in serious condition, including 66 hooked up to ventilators; 161 people have recovered

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Tel Aviv city hall is lit up with the Magen David Adom logo to show support to medical workers battling the coronavirus, March 30, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Tel Aviv city hall is lit up with the Magen David Adom logo to show support to medical workers battling the coronavirus, March 30, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel announced 348 new cases of the novel coronavirus Monday evening, bringing the total 4,695, and appearing to mark a slowdown in the number of confirmed sick people.

The cases included 79 people in serious condition, of whom 66 were attached to ventilators, the ministry said. Another 90 people were in moderate condition, 161 patients had recovered, and the rest had mild symptoms.

The roughly 450 cases in 24 hours marked a decline in the daily tally from Sunday, when the number of cases soared beyond the 4,000 mark, with an increase of 628 cases.

The Sunday daily increase had been the single largest since the first coronavirus case was recorded in the country, and put it in 17th place in terms of infection numbers worldwide.

Daily life in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish town of Bnei Brak, on March 30, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Sixteen people have died from the virus, including a 58-year-old man who succumbed on Sunday, the country’s youngest victim. The Health Ministry said he had “very significant preexisting conditions.”

Of the 16 people to die in Israel from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, 13 were over the age of 70. An 82-year-old Israeli man in Italy also died of the disease.

One of those in serious condition is a man in his 20s who had no preexisting medical issues. Due to increasing difficulty breathing, he was sedated and hooked up to a ventilator, Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital said Sunday.

The continued rise in virus cases came as top Health Ministry officials warned that Israel needs to prepare for a situation in which 5,000 people infected with the virus needed ventilators and thousands could die.

“I wish you would [be able to] look back on this in a few weeks and make fun of me, but I can’t see us ending this ordeal without many victims,” Health Ministry Director Moshe Bar Siman-Tov said. “Unfortunately, I still think the reality we will have to deal with will be thousands of dead.”

According to a report prepared last week for the Knesset’s Special Committee on Dealing With the Coronavirus, there are at most 1,437 ventilators in the country still available to treat patients. The Health Ministry disputed that figure, saying there were 2,864 available ventilators

Medical team members at the Barzilay hospital, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, wear protective gear, as they handle a coronavirus test sample on March 29, 2020. (Flash90)

There have been growing concerns there may not be enough ventilators to treat all of the most seriously ill, leaving doctors with life and death decisions on whom to keep alive.

Israelis were ordered starting last Wednesday to remain in their homes unless they are taking part in a small number of approved activities, including purchasing food and medicine or taking a short walk no more than 100 meters (328 feet) from their home. Those found violating those regulations are subject to fines of upwards of NIS 500 ($140) or imprisonment.

The cabinet during a Monday night meeting was set to approve further restrictions on movement, including the barring of gatherings of more than two people.

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