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Israel passes 2,000 COVID-19 deaths — doubling its toll in just 5 weeks

Second wave of pandemic has killed as many people in barely a month as died between March and September; majority of fatalities over age of 70; 4 victims under age of 19

A memorial of 2,000 candles in Jerusalem's Paris Square for the Israeli lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic, on October 12, 2020 (Darkeinu)
A memorial of 2,000 candles in Jerusalem's Paris Square for the Israeli lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic, on October 12, 2020 (Darkeinu)

Israel passed the bleak milestone of 2,000 deaths due to the coronavirus, the Health Ministry announced on Monday, with more than 1,000 people dying in a little over a month as the toll accelerated in the second wave of the pandemic.

The grim landmark was reached even as contagion appeared to ebb, with transmission rates declining after an ongoing month-long nationwide lockdown.

Israel recorded its first COVID-19 death on March 21 — 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even — and reached 500 deaths on July 30.

In just over a month from that date, the country recorded 500 more, reaching the 1,000 death milestone on September 5. Barely a month later, on October 12, it has doubled.

As of Monday evening, 2,016 Israelis had died of the disease, of 293,553 confirmed carriers of the virus, the Health Ministry said. Of 52,892 active cases of COVID-19, 827 were in serious condition, including 227 on ventilators. There were 287 patients in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild or no symptoms.

A worker from Hevra Kadisha, Israel’s official Jewish burial society, prepares a body before a funeral procession at a special morgue for COVID-19 victims in Holon, September 23, 2020. (AP/Oded Balilty)

The majority of fatalities — some 1,650 of those who died — were over the age of 70, according to Health Ministry figures.

One child under the age of 9 and three teens between the age of 10 and 19 died as a result of COVID-19.

At the start of the pandemic, each death was mourned nationally and stories were told. However, as the death toll has mounted in recent months, the majority of fatalities have gone publicly unmarked.

Read more: An unfathomable calamity: 1,000 deaths, each a world lost

Worldwide, COVID-19 has been blamed for over 1,075,000 deaths, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. There have been over 37 million confirmed cases.

Israel has been under a national lockdown for over three weeks to contain a raging second wave of the pandemic, which at one point reached some 9,000 daily cases.

However, recent days have seen both the number of daily cases and the percentage of positive tests go down amid sweeping restrictions on the public.

Police at a temporary roadblock at Amiad junction in northern Israel, on September 25, 2020 (David Cohen/Flash90)

According to Hebrew-language media reports, the Health Ministry’s plan to gradually ease the national coronavirus lockdown will last at least four months and depend on decreasing daily case numbers.

The plan proposes target dates for the different stages of lifting restrictions, but any easing of the limitations could be pushed off if the infection rate hasn’t dropped enough.

Medical team members take swabs to test for the coronavirus disease at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on October 8, 2020 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The exit plan from the second lockdown involves the so-called traffic light program, which divides towns into color-coded categories of red, orange, yellow and green according to the severity of the outbreak they are experiencing.

Officials have said different locales could see different timelines for lifting the lockdown. However, that system collapsed earlier in the year when the ultra-Orthodox public protested it was being singled out.

Last month as Israel entered its second national lockdown, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that his government had reopened parts of the economy too quickly after the first lockdown.

 

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