Virus cases jump by nearly 500; ministers resume talks on restrictions
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Virus cases jump by nearly 500; ministers resume talks on restrictions

Death toll climbs to 319; government looks to focus containment measures on limiting large gatherings amid warnings that more drastic measures needed to keep pandemic in check

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein speaks during a press conference about the coronavirus at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein speaks during a press conference about the coronavirus at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Monday afternoon recorded 492 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24 hours, as government ministers convened to decide whether to reintroduce virus restrictions.

According to the Health Ministry, another person has died from the virus, bringing the national toll since the start of the pandemic to 319. There were no immediate details on the latest fatality.

The number of overall cases climbed to 23,989 on Monday, of whom 17,114 have recovered. Of the 6,556 active cases, 46 were in serious condition, 24 on ventilators. Another 58 were in moderate condition and the rest were displaying mild symptoms or were asymptomatic.

The ministry said 10,138 tests were conducted on Sunday.

People wearing face masks walk in Jerusalem on June 24, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The virus cases were diagnosed in towns and cities across the country, with Jerusalem in the lead, with 100 new cases in the past three days, followed by Ashdod with 74. The ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak saw 60 new cases since the weekend, while Tel Aviv-Jaffa had 48.

The number of active virus cases has soared by over 4,000 since June 1, after the government reopened the economy and schools in May.

Senior ministers in the so-called coronavirus cabinet met on Monday to discuss whether to reinstate emergency regulations, including a possible scaling back of weddings and other mass events.

A meeting of the coronavirus cabinet on Sunday ended with no decisions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C), with Defense Minister Benny Gantz in the background, holds the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 28, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP)

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein on Sunday evening said he had recommended reimposing restrictions on public gatherings and events, warning that Israel was at the “beginning of a second wave” of coronavirus infections.

In a press conference, Edelstein urged lowering the number of people allowed to attend weddings and other religious events like bar mitzvahs, as well as the number of participants in synagogue services, without specifying how many would be allowed to gather.

According to leaks carried earlier on Sunday by Hebrew-language media, the Health Ministry during the coronavirus cabinet meeting recommended capping the number of participants at weddings to 50 (rather than 250); requiring children’s day camps to be run using the “capsule” system of limited, fixed groups of no more than 15; limiting prayers to outside areas and in groups of no more than 19 people; and banning general gatherings of more than 20 people.

But ministers on the high-level panel were opposed, the leaks indicated.

Channel 13 reported that at one point during the meeting, a presentation was given by Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy and an unnamed representative of the Gertner Research Institute at Tel Hashomer Hospital.

“If the current trend continues without drastic measures, we will lose control of the pandemic and there will be hundreds of dead,” Levy said, according to ministers who attended the meeting and spoke with the outlet.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri reportedly criticized what he said were the Health Ministry’s “excessive demands,” adding: “No further steps are needed. You have to learn to live with the coronavirus.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Sunday that Israel was facing a “rising wave” of infections.

The government and senior health officials last week maintained that a nationwide lockdown could still be avoided.

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