Israel’s COVID-19 count surpasses 80,000 as serious cases continue to climb

Health Ministry confirms almost 2,000 infections in 24 hours, but rate of positive test results is declining; serious patients up by 29 in a day, continuing to flood hospitals

Medics work with COVID-19 patients at the isolation ward of Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on July 29, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Medics work with COVID-19 patients at the isolation ward of Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on July 29, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Israel’s confirmed coronavirus case count surpassed 80,000 on Friday morning, with 1,917 new infections recorded in the previous 24 hours.

The Health Ministry put the number of cases since the start of the pandemic at 80,431, including 24,577 active cases.

Of those, 374 were in serious condition — a new high and 29 more than on Thursday morning — of which 106 were on ventilators. Another 151 were in moderate condition, and the rest had mild or no symptoms.

The death toll grew by two to 578.

The ministry said 27,461 coronavirus test results returned Thursday, with 6.1 percent coming back positive, a downward trend after the percentage reached almost 9% last week.

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.

Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy during a press conference in Jerusalem about the coronavirus on July 13, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meanwhile, 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.

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)

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.

“Israel has the highest morbidity in the world per capita,” said Gamzu in a live-streamed briefing to reporters, saying the situation “cannot continue.”

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.

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

“The goal of the Israeli government is to reduce the morbidity to the level of hundreds of patients ahead of September,” continued Gamzu. “This is a very difficult task, but it is the goal. It is important not only for the health situation, but also for the economy.”

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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