The Health Ministry reported a record number of new coronavirus diagnoses on Tuesday night as Israel’s coronavirus crisis continued to spiral out of control in dozens of communities.
The ministry said 143 patients were on respirators, marking a record high since the start of the pandemic and likely indicating that the death rate will climb further in the coming weeks.
The updated statistics showed 936 people hospitalized, 454 patients in serious condition, and 168 in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild or no symptoms.
Ten people died of COVID-19 since midnight, bringing the toll to 1,040 and the number of active cases stood at 29,123.
The total number of infections in Israel since the start of the pandemic is 137,159, with the number of recovered patients at 106,996.
Health officials carried out 40,480 tests on Monday, the ministry said.
The 3,446 new coronavirus cases confirmed Monday was the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic, shattering a previous record set last week. Health officials say ultra-Orthodox and Arab locales have seen the most major outbreaks nationwide.
A curfew approved Tuesday evening by the cabinet went into effect at 7 p.m. in 40 towns and neighborhoods throughout the country.
The new rules, which will close schools and most businesses, will last for a week before being reconsidered by the cabinet.
The curfew, lasting from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next day, targets nightlife activities, from bars and restaurants to the traditional slichot prayer gatherings held in the evenings in Haredi towns ahead of the Rosh Hashana holiday, which falls on September 18 this year.
Most of the municipalities affected are among the poorest in Israel, with Arab and Haredi towns making up much of the list. Some 1.3 million Israelis were covered by the curfew, according to a Channel 12 tally.
Some local leaders protested the inclusion of their municipalities in the list of cities requiring a curfew.
“The rate of morbidity in the ‘red’ cities in Israel is among the highest in the world,” government coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu said in comments aired on television as the curfew went into effect.
“Even the rates in ‘green’ cities [those with the lowest infection rates] are high. We must act to protect our people,” he urged.
Earlier plans for local round-the-clock lockdowns were scrapped abruptly on Sunday after heavy pressure on Netanyahu from the ultra-Orthodox community, including a letter from four Haredi mayors accusing the prime minister of “trampling” their communities and “turning us into disease vectors and enemies of the people.”
A list of activities permitted in the “red” zones under curfew was set out by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and published Tuesday by the Health Ministry.
The rules stipulate that, during curfew hours, residents must keep within 500 meters of their homes, except for certain reasons, and non-essential businesses must remain closed. Schools will be closed at all times, except for special needs programs.
During the curfew, businesses will not be allowed to open apart from those designated as essential, which are food stores (not including restaurants), pharmacies, opticians’ shops, shops whose main business is selling hygiene products, and businesses that repair phones and computers.