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Just 421 new virus cases recorded in 24 hours, as testing numbers dive

TV report says ministers to introduce new restrictions in hotspots; Eilat municipality threatens to sue COVID-19 patient who stayed at hotel for 3 days

Jerusalem residents, wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus, on Jaffa Street in the city center of Jerusalem, August 2, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Jerusalem residents, wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus, on Jaffa Street in the city center of Jerusalem, August 2, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry logged just 421 new COVID-19 cases between Saturday night and Sunday night, after testing took a steep dive.

The figure was the lowest daily tally in weeks, with most days last week seeing around 2,000 new cases per day. However, the percentage of positive results out of all tests was similar to previous days, even slightly higher.

According to the ministry, there were 26,386 active cases in the country as of 6 p.m. Sunday, and the total cumulative cases grew to 72,584.

It said 342 people were in serious condition, 98 of them on ventilators. Another 141 were in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild or no symptoms.

The ministry said 7,793 tests were conducted on Saturday, 8.4 percent of which came back positive. Recent weeks have seen daily testing rates hover around 30,000.

Five more people died of the virus since Sunday morning, bringing the toll since the start of the pandemic to 536.

The Kan public broadcaster reported Sunday evening that the government was set to impose new restrictions in cities with high COVID-19 infection rates, including closing stores and reducing gatherings.

The restrictions will reportedly be applied to cities and towns flagged as “red” hotspots, while those classified as “orange,” with moderate-to-high infection rates, may also see some new limitations.

Police put up roadblocks in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, on July 8, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The “red” areas include Beitar Illit, Modiin Illit, Taibe, Elad, Qalansawe, Zemer, and Ein Mahel, Kan said. The “orange” areas include parts of Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and Petah Tikva.

The coronavirus cabinet will convene Monday to discuss whether to introduce new measures targeting these areas, the report said.

Meanwhile, the municipality of the southern resort city of Eilat was reportedly threatening to sue a man who stayed for three days at a hotel in the city despite being a confirmed coronavirus carrier.

As soon as police were notified of the matter Saturday, cops in protective gear came to his room at Club Hotel Eilat and ordered him and his family members to leave and return to quarantine, police said.

They handed him a NIS 5,000 ($1,470) fine, police said, adding that the man was identified by an acquaintance who knew he was a carrier and notified the hotel management.

In a letter threatening a lawsuit, the Eilat municipality wrote: “Your disregard of the law and human lives constitute severe harm to the safety of the residents and visitors in Eilat.”

The municipality estimated the damage at NIS 250,000 ($73,500). The hotel was also expected to sue the man.

Illustrative photo of an Eilat hotel, June 1, 2014. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash 90)

The man, whose name has not been published, told Channel 12 Sunday that he had thought quarantining for three days was enough if he did not have symptoms anymore.

He said he had not used the hotel’s facilities such as the pool and public bathroom.

“I headed out with my family to the beach, we took masks because we don’t want to be reinfected,” the man said. “Suddenly, I got a phone call and was told they were searching for me in all of Eilat. They took me out of the hotel, many people looked at me and took pictures of me. My wife and I cried about the situation.”

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said earlier Sunday that the number of coronavirus cases in the country was stabilizing, but cautioned that it was not enough.

“We managed to stop the rise in infections,” Edelstein said at a press conference. “It’s good, but it’s certainly not enough. The numbers are still high and worrisome, including the number of serious patients.”

Prof. Ronni Gamzu, the government’s new coronavirus czar, during a press conference at the Health Ministry on July 23, 2020. (YouTube screenshot)

The new coordinator of the government’s COVID-19 response, Ronni Gamzu, said that the government would not be “hasty” in lifting the current restrictions on daily life and parts of the economy designed to prevent infections.

“We want to create enforcement that is correct, and to have clear rules this time,” he said, after weeks in which restrictions came and went in a matter of days, without any explanation of the rationale.

However, Gamzu urged the public not to “pressure” the government to ease restrictions, adding: “It will be easier to remove restrictions when the [infections] chart starts going down.”

Meanwhile, Channel 13 news reported that the Health Ministry has decided that the quarantine period for those who recover from the virus will be changed to 14 days from when they are tested, if the result is negative, rather than 14 days from the time the negative test results are received. This is expected to shorten quarantine time for recovering patients.

There was no official announcement on the matter.

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