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Serious COVID patients hit 400 as nearly 6,000 cases diagnosed Tuesday

14 inmates at Ela Prison catch virus as ministers set to discuss a slew of new restrictions expanding Green Pass

Health care workers take test samples at a drive through coronavirus testing center in Jerusalem, on August 10, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Health care workers take test samples at a drive through coronavirus testing center in Jerusalem, on August 10, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The number of serious coronavirus cases in Israel reached 400 on Wednesday as the Health Ministry said nearly 6,000 new cases had been diagnosed the day before.

Of the 38,942 active patients, there were 87 people in critical condition and 62 people on ventilators. The death toll rose to 6,580, with 11 fatalities recorded Tuesday.

Amid a recent surge in infections, Israel has seen the number of new cases diagnosed each day rise from just a few dozen in June to thousands.

There were 5,755 COVID-19 cases found on Tuesday, slightly down from Monday’s 6,349, which was the highest tally in half a year.

Of the 142,207 virus test conducted, 4.65 percent were positive. At the beginning of the month, the rate was 2.96%.

As the virus continued to spread, 14 inmates at Ela Prison were reportedly diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday, though none were said to be showing symptoms. The prisoners were to be transferred to the coronavirus wing of Ramon Prison until they recover, and all the prison’s inmates were to undergo virus testing.

Ministers were to convene later in the day to discuss approving new restrictions on public life by broadening the scope of the so-called Green Pass system to apply to most events and leisure activities. This means that in order to enter most businesses, Israelis will have to show proof they are vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19, or tested negative for the virus in the past 72 hours.

Then Health Ministry Deputy Director General Itamar Grotto at a press conference about the coronavirus, May 29, 2020. (Screen capture: Facebook)

However, former deputy director-general of the Health Ministry Itamar Grotto told Army Radio on Wednesday that the restrictions on public life being sought by health officials may not be the answer to curbing the spread of infections.

“It is hard to say if these things will have a significant effect,” he said. “In the end, we have two options: a lockdown and a vaccination effort. The effectiveness of all the rest is in doubt.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday, according to reports, agreed with senior health officials on the expansion of COVID-19 restrictions in an effort to stem the spike in coronavirus cases which is being driven by the ultra-infectious Delta variant.

The venues and events the Green Pass would cover include swimming pools, gyms, academic institutions, sporting and cultural events, conferences and exhibitions, museums, libraries, restaurants, hotels and more.

At a meeting with officials, Bennett also agreed on recommending the age at which children must have a negative coronavirus test be lowered to three. The state would pick up the tab for tests on kids ages 3-12, but families of those older than 12 — who are eligible to get vaccinated — would have to foot the bill.

Meanwhile, Channel 13 news reported Tuesday that Bennett hopes to broaden eligibility for a third vaccine dose to those over 45 or 50 in the near future. Currently, only those over 60 or who are immunocompromised can get a third dose.

The coronavirus cabinet — a high-level ministerial forum tasked with steering the government’s pandemic policy — will convene on Wednesday to discuss the proposed measures.

Last week, Bennett signed off on a plan prepared by several government ministries for reopening schools that will rely on massive testing, in a bid to prevent large numbers of students from having to quarantine if one of them gets infected.

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