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Ministers told hospitals could be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in 2 weeks

Hebrew University research says country could see 600 serious cases by mid-September: ‘The present danger requires decisive action’

Shamir Medical Center (Assaf Harofeh) team wearing protective clothes in the coronavirus ward of Shamir Medical Center (Assaf Harofeh), in Be'er Ya'akov, southeast of Tel Aviv, August 20, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shamir Medical Center (Assaf Harofeh) team wearing protective clothes in the coronavirus ward of Shamir Medical Center (Assaf Harofeh), in Be'er Ya'akov, southeast of Tel Aviv, August 20, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ministers of the so-called coronavirus cabinet on Thursday were presented with research predicting hospitals could be overwhelmed within two weeks as the number of virus cases creeps upward.

The study by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers predicted the country would have 600 serious COVID-19 cases in mid-September, up from 426 on Wednesday, setting up hospitals to face their worst-case scenarios of exhausted resources.

The study noted that the government’s health policies this summer had failed to reduce the number of daily cases.

“Since the start of June, there has been no reduction or significant moderation of the number of new cases every day who are in moderate or serious condition,” it said.

People pray at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on September 3, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussil/Flash90)

Moreover, it said, coronavirus deaths were higher than during the so-called first wave of the virus.

“The present danger requires decisive action,” the report urged.

The presentation of the report to ministers came as the Health Ministry reported over 3,000 new daily cases on Wednesday, for the first time since the pandemic began.

Hospital chiefs on Thursday also sounded the alarm on overload, while also warning that care for patients with ailments other than COVID-19 could be compromised.

“We are certainly concerned that we could reach a situation of real difficulty in treating the population, particularly those who need treatment and are not ill with the coronavirus,” Dr. Ziv Rosenbaum, the director of the Emek Medical Center in Afula, told the Ynet news site.

Illustrative: Doctors perform cardiac catheterizations at Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital, in Jerusalem, on January 20, 2020. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Dr. Mickey Dudkiewicz, director of the Hillel Yaffa Medical Center, added: “The concern is that the trend will continue and the infection rates over the winter, along with the flu, could create very serious overload in the hospitals. This will unequivocally harm the quality of medical care.”

The coronavirus cabinet will be asked to designate 30 cities and towns as highly infected areas with additional restrictions and may impose a full lockdown in eight of them.

According to ministry data, 3,150 cases were recorded on Wednesday, bringing the number of total cases since the start of the pandemic to 122,799. Of the 23,938 active cases, 426 were in serious condition, 124 of them on ventilators. Another 150 were in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild or no symptoms. The ministry said 34,324 tests were conducted on Wednesday, with 9.6 percent of the results returning positive. The ministry said 855 people were hospitalized overall with the virus.

Israelis wear protective face masks in Tel Aviv. September 03, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The Health Ministry announced another seven deaths since Wednesday night, raising the toll to 976.

The spike in cases came just two days after 2.4 million Israeli children went back to school, and just two weeks before the High Holidays begin.

While a nationwide lockdown during the High Holiday period beginning September 18 was set to be discussed again during Thursday’s meeting of the coronavirus cabinet, according to reports, a decision is only expected to be made in a week or so.

Both schools and synagogues were pinpointed as vectors of the deadly virus in the first months of the pandemic.

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