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Senior health official: We don’t know where, how virus is spreading

But Sigal Sadetzky says situation not ‘out of control’ and transmission has slowed since first outbreak; 182 new infections recorded over past day

Inspectors talk to a man not wearing a face mask in the northern city of Safed on June 15, 2020. (David Cohen/ Flash90)
Inspectors talk to a man not wearing a face mask in the northern city of Safed on June 15, 2020. (David Cohen/ Flash90)

A senior Health Ministry official said Monday authorities were in the dark on how the coronavirus is spreading in Israel, as 182 new infections were reported over the past day.

After a sustained drop in new cases, the number of daily infections has been on the rise in recent weeks, and topped 200 one day late last week before dipping slightly over the weekend.

“Right now, we don’t have markers to detect who is spreading the virus, as we did in the beginning. We don’t know where we need to be particularly careful, and where we need to carry out more tests — and this is the problem,” Sigal Sadetzky, head of public health services in the Health Ministry, told the Kan public broadcaster.

While new infections are being recorded across the country, she said the situation was not “out of control” at this time.

“The disease is spreading more slowly now than it did previously because we have learned some things, [but] our [tracking] capabilities are worse than they were. It worries me,” Sadetsky said. “If we don’t stop the virus, it will continue to spread.”

Prof. Sigal Sadetsky head of public health services at the Health Ministry, speaks at a press conference about the coronavirus, in Tel Aviv, February 27, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Sadetsky did not say why the ministry’s ability to zero in on danger zones and at-risk persons had worsened, though the Shin Bet recently stopped its controversial program tracking down the contacts of patients.

According to Health Ministry figures published Monday evening, there were 3,520 active COVID-19 cases in Israel, with 19,237 recorded since the start of the pandemic.

Among the sick, 35 people were in serious condition, 25 of whom were on ventilators. Another 45 were in moderate condition and the rest were displaying mild symptoms.

The ministry data said 8,840 coronavirus tests were conducted on Sunday, well below Israel’s testing capacity.

No additional fatalities were recorded since Monday morning, keeping the death toll at 302.

Illustrative: A teacher checks the temperature of a student to identify if he has fever at the entrance to at an ultra-Orthodox school in Jerusalem on May 6, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Much of the resurgence of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has been blamed on the education system, which has seen hundreds of cases in schools and kindergartens. The entire education system was shuttered for two months during the lockdown that began in mid-March.

The Education Ministry said Monday that 52 more students and teachers tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of infections in the education system to 578. It also said 169 schools have closed due to infections.

Also Monday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein chided lawmakers for failing to wear face masks.

MKs “walk around the Knesset without masks and call me ‘a nuisance’ when I tell them off,” Edelstein, a former parliamentary speaker, told the Knesset plenum.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein speaks at a press conference about the coronavirus at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem, May 31, 2020. (Flash90)

“But when they fear they’ve been infected by the coronavirus, they use their personal connections, jump through hoops and cut the line. What about personal example?” he added.

Edelstein warned that if people did not adhere to the ministry’s social distancing rules, further easing of restrictions on the economy could be delayed.

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