Israel hits new high with over 3,400 infections in day, as curfew snarl persists

Number of hospitalized patients creeps toward 1,000; minister indicates another delay in implementing restrictions in high infection zones is possible

Clalit Health care workers take test samples of Israelis to check if they have been infected with the coronavirus, in a testing center in Modiin Illit, on September 7, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)
Clalit Health care workers take test samples of Israelis to check if they have been infected with the coronavirus, in a testing center in Modiin Illit, on September 7, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

Over 3,400 new coronavirus infections were confirmed Monday, setting a new single-day high, as testing rates climbed amid government disarray over where a nighttime curfew set to go into effect Tuesday evening will be imposed.

The Health Ministry said Tuesday that 3,425 new coronavirus cases were confirmed over the previous day — the highest daily figure since the start of pandemic, shattering a previous record set last week.

According to Health Ministry data, the total number of cases hit 135,288 on Tuesday morning, of which 106,297 have recovered.

Of the 27,962 active cases, 467 are in serious condition, 134 of them on ventilators. Another 154 are in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild or no symptoms. Overall, 467 people are hospitalized with the disease.

The death toll rose to 1,031, showing nine deaths over the previous 24 hours.

The ministry data also indicated that coronavirus testing had been ramped up, with over 40,382 tests administered on Monday, and 8.7 percent returning positive.

Clalit Health care workers take test samples of Israelis to check if they have been infected with the coronavirus in a testing center, in Modiin Illit on September 07, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

The announcement came as the government’s plans to place new restrictions in high infection zones continued to be dominated by turmoil, with ministers failing to finalize a list of some 40 cities and neighborhoods that will be placed under nightly curfew.

The curfews, which include shuttering schools during the day and non-essential businesses at night, were meant to go into effect on Monday night, but were delayed on Monday afternoon after politicians and health officials argued over which cities should be affected.

The Health Ministry on Monday said the final list would be publicized within hours, and the rules implemented on Tuesday at 7 p.m. But as of Tuesday morning, no such information was provided.

Magen David Adom workers wearing protective clothing outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 7, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Speaking to Army Radio, Science Minister Izhar Shay indicated another postponement was possible.

“If our decision is delayed until the afternoon, we won’t come and bother people and tell them within an hour that they must stay home,” said Shay. “They’ll get the 24 hours they need to prepare.”

Mayors from the 40 so-called “red” cities and towns believed slated for restrictions have pushed back against the government rules. According to the government’s virus policy, they must be given a chance to appeal the decision, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said was contributing to the delay.

Another outstanding issue is reportedly whether to impose the rules in the resort town of Eilat, with local officials warning it would decimate tourism.

On Sunday night, the government pulled back from its plan to impose lockdowns on some cities with especially high infection rates, instead announcing nighttime curfews and the closing of schools.

Men praying outside a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, September 6, 2020. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP)

The decision to backtrack from the plans for local lockdowns came after heavy pressure on Netanyahu from the ultra-Orthodox community, due to the presence of several ultra-Orthodox towns on the roster of hot zones that were to have been shuttered.

Four Haredi mayors published an unprecedented open letter Sunday accusing the prime minister of “trampling” their communities and “turning us into disease vectors and enemies of the people.”

Most of the municipalities expected to be on  “red” list are Arab municipalities, and with a few exceptions, many Arab Israeli mayors welcomed new restrictions to fight the spread of the coronavirus in their cities and towns.

Officials insist a nationwide lockdown is still a possibility, especially over the upcoming High Holidays. A key cabinet discussion on the matter is expected on Thursday.

According to the Ynet news site, ministers in the so-called coronavirus cabinet will discuss a proposal by virus czar Ronni Gamzu to shutter all schools across the country over the holiday period, namely from September 18 through October 10.

A father seen with his kids at home after the cabinet voted not to open schools in hot zones, in the northern Israeli city of Tiberias, September 1, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The transition government imposed harsh lockdown measures during the initial wave of the virus, managing to bring daily case numbers down to a couple of dozen in May. The country swiftly reopened, and since then has seen the pandemic spread at an unprecedented pace.

Officials have blamed the swift reopening of schools and other services, a weak contact tracing system and dwindling public will to maintain guidelines for the spike over the last several months.

Israel’s school system reopened last week. Its new contact tracing system, which will be run by the military, may not be fully operational until November, Gamzu said earlier this week, after numerous delays.

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