The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel rose by 425 Saturday morning, for a total of 3,460 diagnosed patients, the Health Ministry announced. Fifty were in serious condition, 73 were in moderate condition and 89 had recovered. The rest were experiencing mild symptoms.
Twelve people have died of the pathogen.
The ministry said a majority of patients, 1,828, were isolating in their homes under monitoring, with 1,062 staying at various care centers including specially converted hotels. Only 469 were currently hospitalized.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Friday that the country could enter into a complete shutdown if there is not an improvement in the number of confirmed virus cases in the next two days.
Netanyahu held a series of discussions with top ministers regarding additional steps the country can take to manage the ongoing crisis, “including preparations for a closure,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
He said that authorities would bring the additional movement restrictions before the cabinet in 48 hours.
Hebrew-language media reported serious disagreements between Netanyahu and other ministers over the need to shut down the economy amid Health Ministry fears that the upcoming Passover holiday will lead to an explosion of infections as people try and shop for the festive meal or spend time with relatives.
During the discussions Netanyahu requested the Finance Ministry give him answers by Saturday night on the possibility of reducing economic activity in Israel to just 10%, down from the current 30%, Channel 13 reported, saying that Netanyahu wants to enforce the harsh restrictions in the next three weeks until the end of the Passover holiday.
“From an economic perspective it will be OK. We can revive the economy with artificial respiration. That won’t be the problem,” Chanel 13 quoted Netanyahu as saying in leaked remarks from the meeting.
“The problem will be if we can’t stem the pandemic and we have thousands of seriously ill people in the next few weeks,” Netanyahu said.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who will likely be leaving his post in the next few weeks if a unity government is formed, warned further lockdown steps would lead Israel to an “economic catastrophe.”
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett also reportedly expressed opposition to a full closure, while Interior Minister Aryeh Deri called for only those over 65 to be put under lockdown. “Don’t let them out of the house, let their children take care of them and in the meantime we can return the economy to life.”
The Finance Ministry will formulate a plan to further scale back the workforce, the Prime Minister’s Office added.
On Saturday night, Netanyahu will hold a meeting with Finance Ministry officials in order to produce a “comprehensive plan” to provide further “assistance to the economy,” his office said.
However, ministry officials said they were looking to present Netanyahu with alternatives. Israel Radio reported that officials were hoping to only reduce economic activity to 25%.
Since Wednesday at 5 p.m., Israelis have been ordered to remain in their homes unless they are taking part in a small number of specially designated approved activities, including purchasing food and medicine or a short walk of no more than 100 meters (328 feet) from one’s home. Those found violating those regulations are subject to large fines of upwards of NIS 500 ($140) and even imprisonment.
Some 500 soldiers will be deployed across the country beginning Sunday to assist police in enforcing the government’s latest restrictions on movement to stem the coronavirus pandemic, the IDF announced Friday.
Four more Israelis died of the coronavirus on Friday, bringing the country’s death toll to 12.
The Prime Minister’s Office also released a list of “emergency regulations” that cabinet ministers had approved for employment in a telephone vote on Friday.
These included allowing civil service volunteers to be placed in government offices that are not typically allowed to employ such volunteers, shortening from six months the amount of time one must wait to receive unemployment benefits and providing additional financial services to Israelis above the age of 67 who were forced to stop working because of the outbreak. In addition extensions will be given for Israelis to pay their taxes.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.