Virus task force: At least 3 months needed to bring cases down to 400 a day

Report by IDF’s Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center also shows COVID-19’s doubling rate is on the rise, as is the doubling rate of serious cases

Israelis wear protective face masks in Tel Aviv on August 25, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israelis wear protective face masks in Tel Aviv on August 25, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A new report by a government coronavirus task force assesses that it will take no less than 90 days to bring infections down to 400 cases a day, given the current rate of some 4,000 daily diagnoses.

The report by the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, operating under the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate in cooperation with the Health Ministry, showed the daily change in infection numbers had risen from around a 4 percent daily increase to 6% over the past week — with 10%, if reached, leading to a doubling of total cases every week.

Similarly, the daily change in the number of seriously ill patients rose from -1% to a 4.4% daily increase over the past week, with 10% once again leading to a doubling of serious cases every week, if that figure is reached.

Meanwhile, the number of tests has risen considerably over the past week, from some 30,000 tests per day to around 45,000 a day.

Similar to past months, a majority of new seriously ill patients are in the 60-79 age group (some 45%) while the 40-59 age group and over-80 age group account for a little over 20% each (the latter possibly due to increased vigilance in the elderly population). The under-40 age group accounts for less than 10% of serious cases.

Israel continues to be one of the world’s top countries in new cases per capita, with over 300 new cases a day per 1 million people, far surpassing the US at some 100 cases per million, and other countries such as Italy, the UK and South Korea, all at under 50 cases per million a day, the report noted.

The Health Ministry on Friday recorded its highest-yet tally of daily coronavirus cases, as Israel geared up for weeks of lockdown and serious restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

Clalit health care workers take test samples of Israelis to check if they have been infected with the coronavirus in a testing center, in Modiin Illit on September 7, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

According to the ministry, 4,038 new cases were diagnosed on Thursday, slightly surpassing the previous day’s record. Of the 33,920 active cases, 489 were in serious condition, 134 of them on ventilators. Another 180 were in moderate condition, with the rest displaying mild or no symptoms. Since the start of the pandemic, 146,542 Israelis have contracted the virus and 111,539 have recovered.

No additional deaths were reported since Thursday night, keeping the toll at 1,077.

Testing rates were also high, with over 47,000 conducted on Thursday, with 8.8 percent returned positive.

As the number of virus cases skyrocketed, ministers voted on Thursday to impose a full lockdown nationwide starting next week ahead of the fall holiday period. The lockdown will take place in three stages, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry.

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu told ministers Thursday he is hoping the widespread measures will drop the number of daily cases from their current 3,500 to 600-700 infections — the approximate level Israel was at the height of the first wave of the pandemic.

Specific dates for each stage have not been announced and the implementation of the second and third rounds of restrictions will depend on the outcome of the previous phase.

Hebrew media said the first stage will likely go into effect shortly before the onset of Rosh Hashanah, on September 18, the second phase around October 1, and the last around October 15.

In the first stage of restrictions, Israelis’ movement will be limited to 500 meters from their homes, the educational system will be largely closed as will businesses, except for essential services.

Police enforcing a lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, seen at a roadblock on Begin Road in Tel Aviv, April 29, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In the second phase, transit between cities will not be allowed. Outdoor gatherings will be capped at 20 people, and indoor gatherings at 10, and leisure and entertainment activities will remain closed. Business places will be barred from receiving customers.

In the third and final phase, the government will impose Gamzu’s “traffic light” plan, which addresses each city and town based on its morbidity rate.

A full cabinet vote, with more details, will be held on Sunday.

The Finance Ministry, Prime Minister’s Office and head of the National Economic Council will put together an “economic safety net” for business owners and members of the public who are expected to experience economic hardship during the lockdown.

The initial ministerial vote on the new plan came amid growing concerns that Israel’s health system will be overwhelmed by an influx of seriously ill patients.

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