Israel ranks 6 in world for daily cases per capita; 2,022 more in last 24 hours

Only US, South Africa, Panama and two Gulf states doing worse in NY Times rating; death toll rises by 2 to 448, serious cases at 308

People wearing face masks market in Jerusalem, on July 14, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
People wearing face masks market in Jerusalem, on July 14, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry’s latest figures Friday evening showed Israel recorded 2,022 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, similar to daily numbers over the past week.

The national death toll rose by two to 448.

The latest cases brought the total case count in Israel to 59,475, of which 32,230 were active cases. Of the patients, 308 were in serious condition (84 of them on ventilators), 138 were in moderate condition and the rest had mild symptoms or were asymptomatic.

On Friday The New York Times ranked Israel sixth in the world in new daily cases per 1 million people, with a little under 200 a day at that ratio. The US was just above it at a little over 200 per 1 million, followed by South Africa, Panama, Bahrain and Oman, which led the pack with some 300 cases a day per 1 million residents.

On Friday the country shuttered businesses for the weekend to stem the spread of the virus.

Restrictions aimed at curbing the coronavirus kicked in at 5 p.m. Friday and will remain in effect until early Sunday morning, after a tumultuous week that saw some of the government’s planned closures overturned by a Knesset panel.

Malls are closed for the weekend, as well as most stores, markets, open-air shopping centers, hair and beauty salons and gyms. They will be allowed to reopen at 5 a.m. on Sunday.

Restaurants are allowed to continue their operations under the existing rules, which allow up to 20 diners indoors and 30 outdoors. Beaches and swimming pools will also remain open.

Chairs outside a fast-food restaurant on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem on July 17, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Unlike during the nationwide closures of March and April, there are no limits on leaving home.

Supermarkets, pharmacies and public transportation are not affected by the closure. Also unaffected are museums — except those aimed at children — exhibition spaces, zoos, cable cars, tourism sites and amusement rides.

Culture events, event halls, bars and nightclubs are already closed until further notice. Gatherings are currently permitted for up to 10 people indoors and 20 people outdoors. Synagogues are allowed to host prayers with no more than 10 worshipers.

The Knesset Coronavirus Committee this week continued with its series of reversals of cabinet-imposed restrictions, ruling in several separate decisions that restaurants, attractions, swimming pools and beaches could remain open over the weekend and that gyms may reopen on Sunday morning.

The committee has said the Health Ministry has not provided sufficient evidence to justify shuttering such places, but health officials say the origin of a significant portion of infections is not known, therefore forcing them to partially rely on global data on infections to decide on high-risk locations

The Knesset on Thursday passed a law that grants the cabinet expanded powers to impose wide-ranging restrictions to curb the coronavirus pandemic, while reducing parliamentary oversight, in a move seen as designed to disempower the Coronavirus Committee.

The so-called Great Coronavirus Law, which comes into force on August 10, reduces the Knesset’s oversight power and neuters the Coronavirus Committee.

Netanyahu had reportedly weighed firing panel chief Yifat Shasha-Biton of Likud, but instead the new law deprives her committee of its authority to reverse cabinet orders and grants four other Knesset panels more limited oversight powers.

MK Yifat Shasha-Biton at a Knesset coronavirus committee meeting on July 19, 2020. (screen capture: Knesset livestream)

The legislation allows the cabinet to set restrictions on the public, with the Knesset given just 24 hours to approve or reject the regulations before they take effect automatically. In addition, it includes a clause that allows the cabinet to bypass the Knesset and immediately implement measures deemed “urgent,” without specifying the criteria for making that determination. Knesset committees in those instances will still be able to reverse the emergency regulations, but only a week, and less than two weeks, after they are approved by the cabinet.

Israel was initially seen as a success story after clamping down on the virus by imposing a strict lockdown in March and April, but saw the pandemic surge to unprecedented levels after reopening schools and rescinding almost all restrictions in May.

Experts have blamed a too-speedy reopening and the lack of an effective contact tracing program as main factors in the virus running riot.

Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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