Israel’s COVID-19 death toll rose to 406 on Sunday morning, with five more deaths reported since Saturday evening alongside a sharp increase in the number of patients in serious condition.
The Health Ministry said 1,414 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the past day, bringing the national case total to 49,575 since the start of the pandemic, of which 27,729 were active cases.
Of the patients, 238 were in serious condition, with 62 on ventilators, while 130 were in moderate condition and the rest suffered mild or no symptoms.
Two hundred and fifty patients in serious condition was a milestone that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set for the renewal of harsh restrictions when he declared victory over the virus in May and reopened the economy.
The Health Ministry said 20,236 tests were conducted Saturday, with a 7.9 percent positive rate — the highest daily rate since the start of the pandemic. Recent days have seen test numbers stand at around 30,000 a day, and weekends tend to see somewhat lower numbers.
Infections have gone up steadily since early June, and in recent days generally began to pass 1,800-1,900 cases a day, far surpassing the initial wave of the outbreak in March-April.
Meanwhile, Hebrew-language media reported Sunday that Prof. Gabi Barbash, a former senior health official who has previously publicly criticized the government for failing to contain resurgence of the virus, will be appointed to lead the national effort against the pandemic.
As the government faces growing anger over its handling of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, with critics saying decision-making is increasingly confused and erratic, Netanyahu is said to be considering major changes to the so-called coronavirus cabinet to streamline debates and decisions.
According to recent legislation, the cabinet can swiftly pass emergency coronavirus regulations without the need for Knesset approval, but the legislature must sign off on the decisions within a week or they are automatically annulled.
New public restrictions authorized by the government to combat the spread of coronavirus entered into effect Friday at 5 p.m., limiting public gatherings until further notice and shuttering various leisure and fitness activities for the duration of the weekend.
Gatherings of over 10 people indoors, and over 20 outdoors, are also forbidden until further notice, but work groups and nuclear families are exempt.
A last-minute reversal by the government led to a decision to keep restaurants open until Tuesday, when they will be shuttered until further notice for all but takeaways and deliveries. The government changed course when it faced widespread threats by restaurant owners to defy the closure order, which had been originally intended to take effect at 5 p.m. on Friday.
Meanwhile, only on weekends until further notice, shops will close but stores offering essential services, such as pharmacies and supermarkets, will be allowed to remain open.
Malls, markets, barbers, hairdressers, beauty parlors, libraries, zoos, museums, exhibition spaces, pools and tourist sites will also be closed on weekends.
A tighter weekend lockdown is likely to take effect from Friday, July 24, including restrictions on movement.