Virus cases reach daily high of 1,718 as ministers deadlocked over restrictions

Figures show a total of 183 serious cases, including 56 people on ventilators and 371 total deaths; lockdown expires in Beitar Illit

People wearing face masks on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on July 14, 2020. ( Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People wearing face masks on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on July 14, 2020. ( Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry reported late Tuesday that 1,718 coronavirus infections were diagnosed since late Monday, the highest number seen in any 24-hour period, as the government appeared deadlocked over new steps to halt the spread.

The ministry figures showed a total of 183 serious cases, including 56 people on ventilators and 371 total deaths.

There have been 42,360 cases confirmed in the country since the start of the pandemic as of 11:00 p.m. Tuesday, including 22,324 active cases.

The new figures from Tuesday marked the highest confirmed case tally yet recorded in any 24-hour period, as the spread of the virus appeared to continue to ratchet up even as politicians appeared deadlocked in moves to impose fresh restrictions.

A meeting Tuesday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, medical experts, ministers and Health Ministry officials ended without any decision made on further steps.

Likud officials blamed Defense Minister Benny Gantz who reportedly objected to the recommendations, saying that it would be best to wait another week to see the effects of the latest round of restrictions before moving forward with additional measures.

Gantz and Blue and White were “undermining the necessary steps to slow down the virus and save lives,” an unnamed senior Likud official quoted Netanyahu as saying, according to multiple Hebrew media reports late Tuesday. The official said Netanayhu was “furious.”

Netanyahu and Likud railed against Gantz, who is also defense minister.

“This irresponsibility of Blue and White will definitely move us to a full lockdown and an unnecessary high economic price,” the senior Likud official said. “Gantz today opposed every measure to stop the spread of corona that could have prevented us from going to a general closure.”

Last week Health Minister Yuli Edelstein was said to warn that the government could reimpose a full lockdown if the number of daily virus infections climbs to 2,000. The matter would require a ministerial vote and then Knesset approval.

Blue and White responded by accusing Netanyahu of playing politics.

“Instead of giving up responsibility for managing the corona crisis, Netanyahu should let the IDF win and let the Defense Ministry to oversee the efforts in the field,” a senior Blue and White official said. “This is not the time for politics, or any battle that does not involve rehabilitating the economy, the health (system) and society.”

An inspector checks the temperature of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market on July 14, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

During the meeting Health Minister Yuli Edelstein repeated his warning that if the current rend of rising infections continues, there will be no choice but to impose a full lockdown, Channel 12 news said.

With no new decisions taken a lockdown on the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit was set to expire Wednesday morning, despite it still being considered a virus hotspot, along with Jerusalem, Lod, Ramle, Kiryat Malachi and Beit Shemesh.

The mounting number of patients in serious condition has prompted growing concern from authorities that the health system could be overwhelmed.

Channel 13 reported that a decision on whether to seek a new lockdown could be made over the weekend.

Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay recommended that instead of enforcing a lockdown during the entire week, the government should consider only enacting a closure in the evenings and on weekends to limit the economic ramifications as much as possible.

Netanyahu reportedly ordered this to be examined.



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