Number of Israelis with coronavirus jumps to 433
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Number of Israelis with coronavirus jumps to 433

Health Ministry reports 96 new cases Wednesday, 260 people hospitalized; spike may be due to efforts to test more people

A Magen David Adom ambulance service medic arrives to test a patient with symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus), in Jerusalem on March 17, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom ambulance service medic arrives to test a patient with symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus), in Jerusalem on March 17, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The number of Israelis infected with the novel coronavirus increased sharply Wednesday with the Health Ministry announcing 96 news cases Wednesday morning, bringing the total number of Israelis with the disease to 433.

The number includes 11 people who have recovered from the virus and been released from hospitals.

Six Israelis with the virus are in serious condition and 12 are listed in moderate condition. The rest are showing only mild symptoms.

The ministry said 260 people are hospitalized, and 76 are in home isolation, including 8 people in a special hotel outfitted this week to hold those with mild cases.

The jump came a day after Israel drastically ratcheted up measures aimed at slowing the spread of the disease, ordering Israelis to remain at home unless they need to leave for work, supplies or some other essential reasons.

Amid fears of coronavirus, senior citizens in Tel Aviv sit two meters apart on Sunday, March 15, 2020(Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel)

The increase in numbers may be due to more testing being done, Dr. Arnon Afek of Sheba Medical Center told Channel 12 news.

The Magen David Adom emergency service said Tuesday it will offer “drive through” COVID-19 testing beginning Wednesday, as it significantly expands testing for the virus across the country.

The emergency service administered 1,085 tests on Monday, and 7,000 since the outbreak began. It aims to begin collecting samples from 6,000 Israelis a day, it said.

Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov told Army Radio that he fears hospitals may soon be overrun with cases, and doctors would be unable to treat everyone.

“We’ll reach many hundreds of new patients in a day and even more than that,” he warned.

Workers preparing new wards following the spread of the coronavirus at Tel Hashomer hospital on March 17, 2020. (Flash90)

At a press conference Tuesday night, Bar Siman-Tov warned that thousands of Israelis could die of the virus if contagion measures were not adhered to.

“We assess that scenarios like in Italy and Spain can happen here too,” Bar Siman-Tov said. “In the coming days… the rate of new cases will rise — to 100 a day or more. We may come to a situation of hundreds more [cases] each day,” he said.

In the end, he said, “people will die — possibly even in the next few days.”

“Unfortunately, in scenarios we have, many thousands [of Israelis] could die,” he said.

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