945 Israelis infected; 20 in serious condition

Premature baby in serious condition after coronavirus infection

Jerusalem hospital says newborn infected by worker who contracted virus elsewhere, another patient with background illness diagnosed; woman, 91, in critical condition in Holon

Illustrative: Babies born prematurely at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek hospital on January 5, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative: Babies born prematurely at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek hospital on January 5, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Hospitals in Israel on Sunday reported several new coronavirus carriers who were in critical or serious condition, some of whom were recently diagnosed and some whose condition had deteriorated, including a premature baby.

The Health Ministry announced earlier Sunday that 945 people in Israel had been confirmed as being sick with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, including 20 people in serious condition.

The new numbers showed a fairly modest jump of 62 new cases since late Saturday morning, but a worrying bump of five new people in a life-threatening state.

The ministry said 24 people were in moderate condition and the rest had mild symptoms. Thirty-seven people have recovered, one more than the last update a day earlier.

Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center said a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit had been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Hebrew-language media said he was in serious condition.

The baby is severely underweight and already has serious complications arising from his premature birth two months ago.

The hospital said in a statement that the baby had been tested after a worker — who appeared to have contracted the virus through contact with an infected person outside the hospital — worked a number of shifts last week, including one in the unit for premature births.

A number of staff members and parents to newborns hospitalized in the unit are now in isolation.

An Israeli firefighter sprays disinfectant at the entrance of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv on March 20, 2020. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Additionally, the hospital said a patient with a “very severe” background illness had tested positive for the virus after initially testing negative when he arrived at the emergency room.

It said he had spent two hours in the internal medicine ward before being transferred to the coronavirus department.

He had been in close contact with several staff members who had been wearing protective masks, two other patients and several relatives, all of whom have entered quarantine, the hospital added.

Meanwhile, Wolfson Medical Center in Holon said a 91-year-old woman with COVID-19 was in critical condition.

The hospital said another four people with the virus hospitalized there were in serious condition, one person was in moderate condition and another eight were in good condition.

There has been a slight improvement in the condition of a critically ill 45-year-old man, it added.

It said that five hospital employees — two nurses and three medical support staff — had tested positive for COVID-19 and that another 167 of its workers, including 44 doctors, were in quarantine after they returned from overseas or were near confirmed carriers of the coronavirus.

Aryeh Even, the first casualty in Israel of COVID-19. (courtesy)

Israel’s first fatality from the virus, 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Aryeh Even, was buried overnight in a funeral service that was capped at 20 mourners. All present were required to stand at a two-meter (6.5-ft) distance from one another, according to Channel 12.

Ministers late Saturday night updated emergency regulations, which came into effect on Sunday at 8 a.m. for the next seven days, aimed at keeping Israelis at home and to be enforced by police.

Updated: When are Israelis allowed to leave home? The specifics

According to the new rules, which the government has vowed to enforce, Israelis must remain at home, with exceptions made for buying essential food and medical supplies or seeking medical treatment. Other exceptions include attending demonstrations, aiding an elderly or ill person, blood donations, attending court hearings, seeking aid from welfare services, going to the Knesset, and attending religious services, including weddings and funerals (which must have no more than 10 people present) or visiting a ritual bath (mikveh).

Israelis were permitted to exercise outdoors, with no more than two people together, and to venture out for short walks near their homes. The ban also limited the number of people who could drive in a car to two, unless they were members of the same household (this does not apply to “essential” errands, carpools of essential workers to and from work, and delivery services).

The head of the coronavirus treatment team at the Health Ministry said Sunday that if people abide by new directives and stay home, Israel will start to see the results in approximately 10 days.

“Self-isolation is very helpful and we will see the results in around ten days. Hopefully the self-isolation will flatten the curve significantly,” Dr. Boaz Lev told the Kan public broadcaster, referring to the protocol that tries to prevent a surge in the number of people requiring hospitalization at the same time.

This March 19, 2020 photo shows playground at Tel Aviv’s beachfront wrapped in tape to prevent public access (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The disease generally only shows mild symptoms in the young and healthy, but can cause serious respiratory issues and death in older adults and those with underlying conditions.

Health Ministry figures showed the number of medical professionals infected and quarantined by coronavirus continued to grow Saturday, with 42 medical staff diagnosed with the virus and 3,030 in quarantine due to potential exposure. Of those in isolation, 814 were doctors and 893 were nurses.

Recent days have seen rising criticism of the conditions in which medical practitioners have been forced to work in the pandemic, and the health system’s ill-preparedness for the outbreak. Medical workers have criticized the government and the Health Ministry for not providing them with adequate equipment to protect against catching the virus from the patients they are treating.

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