Over 1,900 new coronavirus infections were recorded in a single day, the Health Ministry said Thursday morning, as the government scrambled to hash out plans for new restrictions meant to impede the advance of the deadly pathogen.
The ministry announced the death toll had risen to 380 overnight, reporting four new deaths since Wednesday night.
The number of virus cases stood at 44,714, marking 1,901 new infections since Wednesday morning, the highest-yet total recorded over a 24-hour period and mere inches away from the 2,000 daily-case benchmark that Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has reportedly set as a trigger for a return to a full lockdown.
The ministry said 204 people were listed in serious condition, with 57 patients hooked up to ventilators. The vast majority of the 24,234 active cases remain unhospitalized, with most showing only mild systems, though six hospitals reported being at 50 percent capacity or higher in their coronavirus wards. Three hospitals are at 100% capacity or more.
Over 262 new cases were identified in Jerusalem alone, where some neighborhoods have been locked down. Another 119 cases were reported in the settlement of Beitar Illit, a day after officials decided to lift a closure on the ultra-Orthodox town of 55,000 following intense pressure from the Haredi community.
Ministers were set to meet just before noon on Thursday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting to decide on a raft of new restrictions, Hebrew media outlets reported.
Among the possible measures on the table were forbidding gatherings of 10 people or more and shutting down camps, summer schools, colleges, beaches and houses of worship. Ministers were also set to consider limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery, re-closing pools and gyms, and further limiting public transportation, Channel 12 news reported.
A full cabinet meeting may be held Thursday night to approve the restrictions, the Ynet news site reported. Under current rules, the cabinet has the power to immediately impose rules, after which the Knesset has a week to decide whether to approve or rescind them.
On Wednesday, Edelstein warned that only a “miracle” could avert a looming general lockdown, days after a Knesset committee overturned a decision to shut pools and gyms, drawing accusations that lawmakers were endangering public health by second-guessing government moves.
“If the rest of the toolbox isn’t available to us, we’ll ultimately reach a lockdown,” he said.
Edelstein didn’t elaborate on what further measures the government could take and said he’d know if the country was headed for a lockdown in three or four days.
“If there’s a medical miracle” and infection rates plummet, “maybe we won’t get to a lockdown,” he remarked in response to a reporter’s question.
On Tuesday, ministers and experts failed to come to an agreement on imposing stricter measures, with Defense Minister Benny Gantz reportedly asking for more time before the country makes such a move.
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.
Experts have blamed the lack of an effective contact tracing program as a main factor in the virus running riot.