Israel moves toward tighter lockdown as number of infected climbs to 1,238
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Coronavirus crisis

Israel moves toward tighter lockdown as number of infected climbs to 1,238

24 people in serious condition from virus; over 5,000 tests administered in 24 hours; police minister reiterates call for full closure for 2 weeks

Magen David Adom medical team members, wearing protective gear, handle a coronavirus test sample at a drive-through site for testing in Tel Aviv, on March 22, 2020. (Flash90)
Magen David Adom medical team members, wearing protective gear, handle a coronavirus test sample at a drive-through site for testing in Tel Aviv, on March 22, 2020. (Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday will hold a meeting on the possibility of tightening the country’s lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of infected in Israel shot up to 1,238.

The Health Ministry on Monday morning announced the new tally, a rise of 135 over Sunday evening. It said 24 people were in serious condition as a result of the virus, and 34 were moderately ill. The ministry said it had administered over 5,000 tests in the past 24 hours. Some 464 of the ill were at home and 120 were being treated in hotels that had been converted to house COVID-19 patients, the ministry said.

Some 37 people have recovered from the disease in Israel, while one person, 88-year-old Aryeh Even, has died.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Monday doubled down on his call for a full lockdown of the country and called for greater enforcement.

“My fear is of what will happen in a week or two,” Erdan, whose office oversees the police, told the Kan public broadcaster. “A week ago I expressed my opinion that we must have a full lockdown for two weeks, with much wider enforcement. The number of options for leaving home [under such a scenario] would be must more limited.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on June 2, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ministers late Saturday night updated the emergency regulations, which came into effect on Sunday at 8 a.m. for the next seven days, aimed at keeping Israelis at home and to be enforced by police.

According to the new rules, which the government has vowed to enforce, Israelis must remain at home, with exceptions made for buying essential food and medical supplies or seeking medical treatment.

Other exceptions include attending demonstrations, aiding an elderly or ill person, donating blood, attending court hearings, seeking aid from welfare services, going to the Knesset, and attending religious services, including weddings and funerals (which must have no more than 10 people present) or visiting a ritual bath (mikveh).

Israelis walk their dogs and do sports in Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv on March 22, 2020.(Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israelis were permitted to exercise outdoors, with no more than two people together, and to venture out for short walks near their homes. The ban also limited the number of people who could drive in a car to two, unless they were members of the same household (this does not apply to “essential” errands, carpools of essential workers to and from work, and delivery services).

READ: Updated: When are Israelis allowed to leave home? The specifics

It wasn’t immediately clear what further steps Netanyahu was weighing, but health officials have criticized Israelis for continuing to gather in public spaces despite the order.

Israeli singer Ben Snof during a street performance to cheer up the residents of Safed on March 22, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The prime minister’s meeting on Monday with ministers and health officials will be held by videoconference.

The head of the coronavirus treatment team at the Health Ministry said Sunday that if people abide by the new directives and stay home, Israel will start to see results in approximately 10 days.

“Hopefully, the self-isolation will flatten the curve significantly,” Dr. Boaz Lev told the Kan public broadcaster, referring to efforts to try to prevent a surge in the number of people requiring hospitalization at the same time.

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