The coronavirus death toll in Israel reached 200 on Sunday afternoon, with one woman dying since the previous evening, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country rose to 15,398, an increase of 250 over the previous 24 hours.
The woman died at Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer, outside Tel Aviv.
Israel has registered 23 deaths per million citizens, according to the Worldometers tally on Sunday early afternoon, which places it at around 40th in the world, slightly better than the world average of some 26 deaths per million.
The Health Ministry said 132 people were in serious condition, 100 of whom were on ventilators, and 93 people were moderately ill.
There have now been 6,602 people in Israel who recovered from the coronavirus, according to the announcement, which came a day after the World Health Organization said it could not guarantee that people can’t be reinfected after recovery.
Most stores, hairdressers and beauty salons were allowed to resume operations from midnight Saturday, if hygiene regulations related to the virus were adhered to.
In addition, restaurants and food shops were allowed to sell products for takeaway, not just home deliveries, if a physical barrier is placed between the cashier and the customers.
However, hundreds of large businesses were set to remain closed, despite approval to reopen, in protest against the government and as they demand compensation for the recent closures and ongoing restrictions.
A day earlier the Health Ministry defined new parameters on which to base its decisions regarding the easing or tightening of restrictions on the public and the economy, amid widespread criticism of a confused decision-making process.
According to Hebrew media reports, any of the following conditions will likely result in increased restrictions, while remaining below these thresholds will promise continued relief:
- Over 300 new sick people per day (numbers have hovered between 200 and 300 in recent days, though they did pass 500 on Wednesday, possibly due to a backlog of tests);
- Over 300 seriously ill patients (currently 130 are in serious condition);
- A doubling of the national number of sick every 10 days or less (currently cases are doubling around every 20 days).
The Health Ministry has previously proposed a set of criteria for declaring individual areas “restricted zones” due to a high number of coronavirus cases there.
Several mainly ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Beit Shemesh and Netivot, where there has been a spike in coronavirus infections in recent days, went into lockdown at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning. Meanwhile, police on Saturday took down checkpoints at the entrances to the Arab towns of Deir al-Asad and Bi’ina in northern Israel that were put on lockdown due to an outbreak there.
As of Friday, Deir al-Asad, with a rate of 1,142 cases per 100,000 people, had the highest infection rate of any community in Israel with over 5,000 residents. Bi’ina, with 22 cases out of a population of 8,355, had the 11th highest infection rate in the country — 251 per 100,000 people. The majority of towns above Bi’ina on the list were not declared restricted areas.
The determination of measurements that would lead to a snapback of eased restrictions came as the government was set to weigh an Education Ministry proposal on Sunday that would gradually reopen the education system and see thousands of preschoolers and elementary school children return to class in the coming weeks.
According to the proposed plan, preschools and kindergartens would reopen on May 3 and children would attend in groups of 15. Each group would attend for half of each week to limit the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, officials warned Friday that as parents become increasingly hesitant to go to hospitals and health clinics for fear of the coronavirus, there has been a drop in child vaccination rates and a surge in home births in the past few weeks.
And they warned that the trend could open the door for a second, simultaneous virus outbreak, with particular fears regarding measles.
In Israel, the Kan public broadcaster reported there was a 30% drop in the administration of the MMRV vaccine in March and the first week of April compared with the same period last year. World Health Organization officials said a similar decline had been seen around the world.
MMRV refers to measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox).
The Health Ministry is urging parents to be sure to go to health clinics to vaccinate their kids, Kan reported.
Several countries, including Israel and the US, suffered from a severe outbreak of measles last year, which resulted in fatalities.