PM says cabinet to discuss new restrictions amid ‘rising wave’ of infections
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PM says cabinet to discuss new restrictions amid ‘rising wave’ of infections

Health and economics are intertwined, Netanyahu says; ministers to vote on allowing university exams to be held remotely

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the cabinet would vote to reimpose some coronavirus regulations as infection numbers continued to rise and the Israel Society for Infectious Diseases warned the country was on the verge of losing control of the virus.

Netanyahu said ministers would vote on restrictions on the size of permitted gatherings as well as increased enforcement of regulations.

“I do not know if we are in second wave, but we are in a rising wave,” the prime minister said at the opening of the cabinet meeting. “We have passed ten million people [infected] in the world and half a million dead. Countries that have removed the restrictions are bringing them back. We have already seen in other places that it is not a matter of either health or economics, because serious damage to health is also a very serious wound to the economy.”

Hebrew-language media reported that ministers in the so-called “coronavirus cabinet” are also expected to discuss the possibility of university examinations being held remotely.

Israelis, some wearing protective face masks and some not, at a cafe in Tel Aviv on June 16, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The reports said that the increase in the number of cases combined with outbreaks at educational institutions had led to inquiries on the matter from hundreds of students. In addition, it was thought the move could reduce the chances of mass infection.

The Health Ministry’s latest data on Sunday morning showed 76 new recorded infections from Saturday evening, bringing the national tally to 23,497.

The death toll, meanwhile, climbed by one to 318. There were no details immediately available on the fatality.

The number of active cases stood at 6,160, including 45 in serious condition, an increase of four from Saturday evening, among them 24 on ventilators.

There were 50 people in moderate condition, with the rest experiencing only mild symptoms or none.

Three people died on Saturday, including a 19-year-old young woman who died of COVID-19 at Hadassah-Ein Kerem Medical Center — Israel’s youngest victim of the disease.

People on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on June 24, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The latest numbers came as the head of the Israel Society for Infectious Diseases on Sunday wrote to the director-general of the Health Ministry, warning that the country was on the verge of losing control of the coronavirus epidemic.

In the letter to Chezy Levy, Israel Society for Infectious Diseases head Miri Weinberger warned the Health Ministry that not only was the number of cases increasing, but so was the average age of those infected, an indicator that patients could be more severely affected.

“Over the past two weeks, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of daily infections of the coronavirus. In recent days there has also been a rise in the ages of those diagnosed and hospitalized,” Weinberger wrote.

“We are about to lose control of the epidemic in Israel. We are close to the point of no return where there will be mass infection and burdens of severely ill patients. The window for effective action is closing — if we do not begin at the start of this week, we will miss the boat and may even lose control,” Weinberger wrote.

A municipal inspector patrols at a beach in the central coastal city of Bat Yam on June 26, 2020, after the municipality ordered the closure of beaches during the day as part of restrictions against the coronavirus. (Flash90)

Recent days have been showing 400-500 new patients a day on average, numbers not seen since early April.

Figures from last week showed that 2,907 were infected over seven days, more than the number for all of May.

In a bid to stop the increase in infections, the Knesset on Wednesday night advanced a bill to reinstate the Shin Bet surveillance program aimed at tracking virus carriers and those exposed to them — despite the opposition of the agency itself to the move.

In addition, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the IDF’s Home Front Command to open additional hotels for coronavirus patients and for quarantine purposes. The military is currently running six facilities for those infected and those who cannot adequately self-isolate at home.

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