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Virus death toll leaps to 779 with inclusion of previously uncounted fatalities

516 in serious and moderate condition; coronavirus czar said readying to present High Holiday shutdown plan if infection rates don’t fall

Soldiers of the Home Front Command seen at a nursing home in the city of Bnei Brak, April 14, 2020 (Flash90)
Soldiers of the Home Front Command seen at a nursing home in the city of Bnei Brak, April 14, 2020 (Flash90)

The national coronavirus death toll leapt on Wednesday to 779 following the Health Ministry’s announcement that dozens of fatalities at senior living homes hadn’t been previously included in the tally.

The ministry said on Wednesday evening that 1,298 new cases were recorded since midnight, taking the total number of infections since the pandemic began to 97,969.

Of 24,098 active cases, there are 398 people in serious condition, of whom 118 are on ventilators. A further 164 are in moderate condition and the rest have mild or no symptoms.

Additionally, the ministry said 27,911 tests were performed on Tuesday with a positive rate of 6.1 percent.

A paramedic from Magen David Adom collects a swab sample from a man at a COVID-19 mobile testing station in East Jerusalem on August 19, 2020. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

The dramatic jump in the death toll came after the Health Ministry admitted to undercounting Israel’s COVID-19 fatalities, issuing a statement saying that it had failed to include 53 deaths at senior living homes during July and August in its official count.

The ministry said that Health Minister Yuli Edelstein viewed the matter “very severely” and “ordered a thorough check and that recommendations [for preventing these errors in the future] be brought before him within a week.” These will then be relayed to the public.

Reports of fatalities at geriatric institutions have thus far gone through a different reporting system than other deaths, but going forward, all coronavirus deaths will be reported to a single source and entered into the Health Ministry’s computerized system, ministry director-general Prof. Chezy Levy announced.

The ministry also said that it was “checking whether there were any additional cases that weren’t added” to the total.

At the height of the first wave of the outbreak, the coronavirus spread quickly in nursing homes around the country, where at the time it was responsible for around a third of the national death toll.

The Health Ministry no longer releases personal details on fatalities, making it unclear how many deaths have been in elder care facilities throughout the duration of the pandemic thus far.

View of Ne’ot Margoa Nursing Home in Ramla on June 28, 2020 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Additionally, it was announced Wednesday that coronavirus has swept through the geriatric ward of the Laniado Hospital in Netanya, infecting the vast majority of patients and some staff members.

The figures came as the Kan public broadcaster reported coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu had presented a plan to his advisers on Tuesday that would see a four-week closure over the High Holidays unless infection rates fall.

According to the report, Gamzu will present the plan at Thursday’s coronavirus cabinet meeting.

The plan is said to include closing hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues. There would also be limits on movement beyond 500 meters from home, and public transportation and gatherings would be limited.

Channel 12 news reported that the Health Ministry is working on a plan that would allow prayers to take place over the holiday period.

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