Ministers warned virus spread is the fastest in months, imperiling health system
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1st time since 1958: J'lem Great Synagogue shut for holidays

Ministers warned virus spread is the fastest in months, imperiling health system

Military task force sounds alarm ahead of cabinet decision on lockdown; Health Ministry announces 2,715 new cases, 5 new deaths; serious cases keep rising

Magen David Adom workers wearing protective clothing outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Magen David Adom workers wearing protective clothing outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on September 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As ministers were set to approve a nationwide lockdown starting Friday, a military report indicated Sunday that the coronavirus was continuing to accelerate its spread throughout the country at an alarming rate.

According to the report by a task force belonging to the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, the virus is currently spreading faster than at any point during the past two months and the pace has accelerated over the last week.

The report sounded the alarm, saying the health care system was approaching capacity.

It also said the rate of positive results of all COVID-19 tests in Israel — around 9 percent — is one of the world’s highest, indicating high infection rates in all of the country’s population groups.

A technician carries out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a lab at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv on August 3, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said Sunday morning that 2,715 new cases were confirmed throughout Saturday. That number is lower than in recent days, which have seen about 4,000 daily infections, but the decrease is presumably the result of fewer tests over the weekend as the rate of positive test results has stayed the same.

The ministry said 29,549 test results came back Saturday, after that number had topped 40,000 on each of the previous five days.

The total number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic stood at 153,759, including 38,008 active cases — an increase of almost 14,000 active cases over the past week, even when considering those who recovered during that time.

The ministry said 513 of them were in serious condition — significantly up from 495 on Saturday evening — including 139 on ventilators. Another 206 were in moderate condition, and the rest had mild or no symptoms.

The death toll rose by five to 1,108.

Amid the continued surge in the number of new infections, ministers voted on Thursday to impose a full lockdown nationwide starting next week ahead of the fall holiday period, pending a full cabinet vote on Sunday.

The lockdown will take place in three stages, with the implementation of the second and third rounds of restrictions depending on the outcome of the previous phase.

The first phase of restrictions — beginning this Friday morning — will be the most severe, but the rules will then slacken if morbidity levels decrease.

On Friday, top business leaders warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a new national lockdown would be disastrous to the local economy and many businesses threatened to defy closure orders and open up anyway.

Stained glass windows in Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue. (Wikipedia, Hebrew)

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Great Synagogue announced Friday that it will be closed for the High Holidays for the first time since 1958 — when it started its operations in the neighboring Heichal Shlomo synagogue, before moving to its current building in 1982.

The synagogue has been closed since the first lockdown was announced in March, but many worshipers had hoped it would open for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — normally the largest and most well-attended services of the year.

“We were hoping for ‘clearer skies,'” the synagogue said in a statement. “There were many reasons for us to open the chamber and hold the services in some form or another … But the decisive factor was the personal safety of each and every one of you.”

The synagogue explained the decision by citing its size — it can host more than 2,000 worshipers — as well as the logistical difficulty in inspecting everyone entering and in enforcing the distancing rules, and the uncertainty and constant change of government instructions.

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