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Israel sees 1,716 new infections as death toll rises to 581

Israel tops 80,000 infections amid continued failure to bring infection rate down; number of serious patients up by 11 to 369

Israeli school children who will begin 1st grade in the upcoming academic school year, on August 06, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Israeli school children who will begin 1st grade in the upcoming academic school year, on August 06, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel climbed to 80,991 Friday evening, after a 24-hour increase of 1,716 infections, with the death toll rising to 581.

This was the fourth consecutive day in which the 24-hour case count held above 1,700, as health authorities fail to bring the infection rate down.

After the number of cases climbed above 80,000 earlier Friday, the Health Ministry updated that the number of active cases had reached 25,095.

Three hundred sixty-nine Israelis were in serious condition — an 11 case rise from Thursday evening — of which 109 were on ventilators. Another 143 were in moderate condition, and the rest had mild or no symptoms.

The ministry said 28,695 coronavirus tests were conducted Thursday and 16,601 tests had been conducted thus far Friday.

Medical personnel wearing protective gear handle a coronavirus test sample at the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem, on March 24, 2020 (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center is Israel’s most overwhelmed hospital, rising on Thursday evening to 202% of the standard capacity of its coronavirus ward and to 204% on Friday. According to the Ynet news site, the hospital has been sending patients to other medical centers to try to ease the caseload. Officials have also looked at opening a new ward to handle the influx of patients.

Four other hospitals, including Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek, were at 100% capacity or higher.

Jerusalem is one of Israel’s COVID-19 hotspots, and currently has more active cases than any other city, with 3,779.

Earlier Friday, Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy attempted to curb the enthusiasm caused by the announcement Thursday that a COVID-19 vaccine developed by a national Israeli lab would begin human trials as soon as October.

“We are not yet in the stage where the Israeli vaccine is close to mass production,” Levy said, predicting that no vaccine in the world will reach that stage in the first quarter of 2021.

Prof. Ronni Gamzu speaks at a press conference on July 28, 2020 (YouTube screenshot)

Coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu said Thursday that Israel’s coronavirus infection rates were the highest in the world relative to population size, and warned that the country could face another nationwide lockdown if daily confirmed cases were not brought down to “hundreds” by September 1.

It was unclear on what data the health official tasked with overseeing Israel’s response to the virus was basing this assessment, and whether he was referring to the overall rate or the rate of increase in recent weeks. According to various global rankings, including Worldometer, Israel ranks 16th to 19th in terms of cases per million people — behind the US, Gulf states and some Latin American countries — with all cases since the start of the pandemic tallied.

The virus czar also presented his color-coded system, under which cities and towns will see virus restrictions adapted to their local rates of infection. In “red” cities, he said, the highest level, schools may not open in the fall, he said, while “green” cities will see loosened restrictions on gatherings and outdoor events.

At Gamzu’s prodding, the government decided Thursday to cancel weekend closures on shopping centers, stores and markets that had been implemented to stymie the spread of the coronavirus, after establishing that the regulations weren’t driving down infection rates.

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