Israel’s virus cases pass 40,000 as official says full lockdown ‘a step away’

Health Ministry data shows 1,578 new infections in 24 hours, with serious cases more than doubling in 6 days

People in downtown Tel Aviv on July 13, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
People in downtown Tel Aviv on July 13, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Monday evening reported 1,578 coronavirus infections in the previous 24 hours, as the total cases crossed the 40,000 mark and government officials were said to conclude there was no escaping a reimposed lockdown throughout the country.

The number of serious COVID-19 cases continued to surge and reached 183, a leap of 32 in one day. The tally has more than doubled in six days and has prompted growing concern by authorities.

Of the 183 serious patients, 54 were on ventilators — seven more than a day before. Another 97 were in moderate condition, and the rest were displaying mild or no symptoms.

Figures released by the ministry showed that 40,248 cases had been confirmed in the country since the start of the pandemic, including 20,560 active cases.

The figures showed 20,102 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday, of which 6.1 percent returned a positive result.

Meanwhile, Channel 13 quoted an unnamed senior official in the Health Ministry as saying Israel was “a step away from a full lockdown.”

A woman exercises at the Mati gym club in the Malha neighborhood of Jerusalem on May 11, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The official was said to be angry at the Knesset decision earlier in the day to reopen gyms and swimming pools by exempting them from government-announced restrictions approved last week.

“It is unacceptable for us to take action for political reasons rather than professional ones,” the source said.

However, the ministry had not been able to provide sufficient infection data to justify the closure of pools and gyms.

Recent weeks have seen the reversal of many of the earlier gains made in the fight against the coronavirus. The country had been placed on a nationwide lockdown for several weeks at the start of the outbreak in mid-March, but removed most of its restrictions by May to reopen the economy.

Christian nuns, wearing face masks due to the coronavirus outbreak, walk in the Old City of Jerusalem on July 9, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

To contain the surge in new cases, the government has reimposed many restrictions on gatherings and economic activity, and on Friday a number of lockdowns came into effect in neighborhoods in five towns and cities hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. That measure came a day after cabinet ministers approved the closures as the number of new cases in Israel continued to rise, hitting over 1,000 a day.

The new figures come as experts warned of the need for further lockdowns and as lawmakers debated the merit of the new regulations introduced by the government last week.

Amid the rising number of cases, a team of experts from the Hebrew University on Sunday morning presented the government with a grim prediction that 100 more Israelis will die of the coronavirus by the end of July. They therefore recommended the reimposition of strict restrictions starting from next week, including a nationwide lockdown, if the rate of new infections does not slow down by then.

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