Israel records over 600 new infections in past 24 hours; 3 more deaths

Health Ministry figures show that 2,907 were infected this week, more than number for all of May; ministers to weigh new restrictions

People walk with face masks on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on June 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People walk with face masks on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on June 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israeli Health Ministry’s latest data on Saturday evening showed 621 new recorded infections over the past 24 hours, bringing the national tally to 23,421 total, up from 22,800 on Friday evening. The number of active cases stood at 6,102, up from 5,614 on Friday, including 41 in serious condition, among them 23 on ventilators.

There were 55 people in moderate condition, with the rest experiencing only mild symptoms or none.

The death toll, meanwhile, climbed to 317 Saturday, up three from 314 Friday. This figured includes the 19-year-old young woman who died of COVID-19 at Hadassah-Ein Kerem Medical Center on Saturday, making her Israel’s youngest victim of the disease.

The numbers appeared to continue the rising trend in infection rates, with recent days showing 400-500 new patients a day on average, numbers not seen since early April.

Figures from this week showed that 2,907 were infected over the past seven days, more than the number for all of May.

Also on Saturday, the Health Ministry reported a COVID-19 outbreak at a senior living home in the central city of Ramle that it attributes to health workers at the facility.

According to the ministry, seven staff members at Ne’ot Margo’a tested positive for coronavirus and were sent to an isolation facility. Additionally, 17 residents tested positive and were sent to hospitals and geriatric health centers.

The ministry said it will perform further tests on all residents and staff over the next three days to check for further infections, adding that everyone at Neo’t Margo’a is in quarantine.

Israel’s “coronavirus cabinet,” tasked with leading the government’s response to the virus outbreak, is set to convene on Sunday to weigh reimposing some restrictions amid the rising infections.

In an interview with Channel 12 news on Saturday, Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said possible measures proposed by the Health Ministry would include limiting youth programs over the summer break, limiting the size of gatherings, and requiring “capsules” at educational institutions and at workplaces, with set groups of employees working the same shifts.

“The steps we take now, today, will prevent a lockdown tomorrow. We have to act today to stop the rise in infections. The numbers now are 400-500 infections a day and we know that in the next two weeks, these numbers will rise,” Kisch told Channel 12.

Channel 12 reported Friday that police and inspectors throughout the country were engaged in increased enforcement, handing out fines to those breaking Health Ministry guidelines, including businesses not adhering to rules and people failing to wear masks while in public.

The operation was particularly focused on recreational venues such as restaurants, cafes and event halls, which are more prone to mass gatherings and a lack of social distancing.

Workers wearing protective clothes disinfect a public playground in Bat Yam on March 18, 2020 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The latest jump in new infections came after experts reportedly warned ministers the country was on the brink of “losing control” over the renewed outbreak.

In a bid to stop the increase in infections, the Knesset on Wednesday night advanced a bill to reinstate the Shin Bet surveillance program aimed at tracking virus carriers and those exposed to them — despite the opposition of the agency itself to the move.

In addition, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the IDF’s Home Front Command to open additional hotels for coronavirus patients and for quarantine purposes. The military is currently running six facilities for those infected and those who cannot adequately self-isolate at home.

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