Three women – 49, 50 and 90 years old – die of virus, as death toll rises to 18

Hospitals say the women, the youngest Israelis to die of the disease, had preexisting conditions; 484 cases diagnosed in past 24 hours; of 4,831 total, 83 in serious condition

Tamar Peretz-Levi, 49, of Lod, who died of the coronavirus on March 31, 2020. (courtesy)
Tamar Peretz-Levi, 49, of Lod, who died of the coronavirus on March 31, 2020. (courtesy)

Two women — one 49 years old, the other 50 — died of the coronavirus on Tuesday morning, becoming the youngest people in Israel to succumb to the disease.

The 49-year-old, identified by family as Tamar Peretz-Levi of Lod, suffered from preexisting conditions, according to the Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center in central Israel.

“She passed away overnight from complications of the virus,” the hospital said.

The 50-year-old woman, named as Pazit Babian from Rishon Lezion, also suffered from serious preexisting conditions, according to a statement from the Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv, where she’d been treated.

Pazit Babian, 50, of Rishon Lezion, who died of the coronavirus on March 31, 2020 (Facebook)

Lod Mayor Yair Revivo said Peretz-Levi left behind 4-year-old twins. Her husband, Shimon, died shortly after their birth of a heart attack.

“Tamar was a hero, an engineer at the ELTA aerospace contractor, who fought for years to build a family and to bring her twins into this world,” Revivo said.

A third woman, who was in her 90s, died Tuesday afternoon at Rehovot’s Kaplan Hospital, bringing the country’s toll to 18.

On Tuesday morning, the Health Ministry reported 4,831 cases of the novel coronavirus, a rise of 136 since the previous evening and 484 in the 24 hours since Monday morning.

That included 83 people in serious condition, of whom 69 were attached to ventilators, the ministry said. Another 95 people were in moderate condition, 163 patients had recovered, and the rest had mild symptoms.

The number of fresh cases in 24 hours reported on Tuesday morning marked a small increase in the daily tally over Monday, when the number of cases rose by roughly 450, but was a drop from Sunday when the total soared beyond the 4,000 mark, with an increase of 628 cases.

The Sunday daily increase had been the single largest since the first coronavirus case was recorded in the country. It was not immediately clear, however, if this was due to an increase in the number of infections or in the number of tests.

Daily life in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish town of Bnei Brak, on March 30, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Of the 18 people to die in Israel from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, 13 were over the age of 70. An 82-year-old Israeli man in Italy also died of the disease.

One of those in serious condition is a man in his 20s with no preexisting medical issues, though doctors said his condition was improving.

The continued rise in virus cases came as top Health Ministry officials warned that Israel needs to prepare for the possibility of 5,000 people infected with the virus needing ventilators and thousands dying.

“I wish you would [be able to] look back on this in a few weeks and make fun of me, but I can’t see us ending this ordeal without many victims,” Health Ministry Director Moshe Bar Siman-Tov said Monday. “Unfortunately, I still think the reality we will have to deal with will be thousands of dead.”

According to a report prepared last week for the Knesset’s Special Committee on Dealing With the Coronavirus, there are at most 1,437 ventilators in the country still available to treat patients. The Health Ministry disputed that figure, saying there were 2,864 available ventilators, including those that the Israel Defense Forces has in its stores.

Medical team members at the Barzilay hospital, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, wear protective gear, as they handle a coronavirus test sample on March 29, 2020. (Flash90)

There have been growing concerns there may not be enough ventilators to treat all of the most seriously ill, leaving doctors with life and death decisions on whom to keep alive.

To fill the gap, Israel has ordered 11,000 ventilators, 7,400 monitors and 21,000 infusion pumps, said Dr. Orly Weinstein, who is in charge of stocking up on ventilators and other equipment within the ministry.

“The big challenge is that these orders will arrive in parallel with the projected number of patients requiring ventilation,” she said, adding that some 4,000-7,000 ventilators will be manufactured in Israel.

Israelis were ordered starting last Wednesday to remain in their homes unless they are taking part in a small number of approved activities, including purchasing food and medicine or taking a short walk no more than 100 meters (328 feet) from their home. Those found violating those regulations are subject to fines of upwards of NIS 500 ($140) or imprisonment.

The cabinet overnight Monday night approved a set of new measures further tightening restrictions on the public amid efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, including a ban on prayer quorums and limits on funerals and Jewish circumcision ceremonies.

The new regulations also place further limitations on work places, seeking to lower the workforce outside homes from 30 percent to 15% of its full capacity, and instructing all those working outside their homes to take their temperature daily before coming in to work.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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