Health officials said planning emergency summit

With steep rise of 79 new virus cases, Health Ministry warns against complacency

Ministry highlights ‘unusual’ increase over past 2 days; 3 deaths take toll to 284; 37 patients in serious condition, 36 of them on ventilators; cases mount in education system

A Magen David Adom worker is seen at a drive-through coronavirus testing facility in Jerusalem on March 24, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom worker is seen at a drive-through coronavirus testing facility in Jerusalem on March 24, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said Thursday evening that 79 new cases of coronavirus were diagnosed over the past day, saying the steep rise in the number of positive tests confirmed a “relatively unusual” increase in the number of infections discovered over the previous 48 hours.

“The mood that the coronavirus is behind us is wrong,” the ministry said in a statement. “Do not get complacent.”

The total cumulative number of cases was 16,872 as of Thursday evening.

In addition, the death toll went up by three to 284. There were no details given on the identities of the fatalities.

According to the latest update by the Health Ministry, there were 1,909 active cases of coronavirus in the country.

Medical workers stand outside the coronavirus unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on May 5, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Thirty-seven patients were in serious condition, 36 of whom were on ventilators. Another 35 carriers were in moderate condition and the rest were displaying mild symptoms, the Health Ministry said.

The downward trend in cases diagnosed over the past few weeks appeared to be threatened Thursday by renewed outbreaks in schools.

The Ynet news site reported that Health Ministry officials will hold an emergency meeting on Friday morning to discuss the increase in cases.

“It’s clear to us that the regulations are not being adhered to at all, particularly not in schools,” an unnamed official said.

Israeli students wear protective face masks at the Hashalom School in Mevaseret Zion, near Jerusalem, May 17, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Eighteen students and staff members at a Jerusalem high school have now tested positive for the coronavirus when intensive testing was carried out Thursday after three students were initially found to be infected.

A statement from the Hebrew Gymnasium in the Rehavia neighborhood said that 11 staff members and seven students in total have been diagnosed with the coronavirus after 678 children and workers were tested.

The school said that by Sunday, all 1,400 students and staff members will have been tested.

The outbreak was initially traced when a ninth-grade student at the school was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Tuesday, upon which 210 fellow pupils and teachers were sent to quarantine for 14 days. Subsequently, two seventh-grade students and then three teachers were also diagnosed.

The school will remain closed for at least a week and go back to online studies.

“By the middle of next week we will have a full picture of the situation and we can start thinking about the exit strategy from this crisis,” the school said Thursday in a message to parents.

Despite the uptick in cases, the government said Thursday that higher education institutions and youth groups would be allowed to operate from Sunday, under Health Ministry restrictions.

The Jerusalem high school was not the only school affected by an outbreak on Thursday — two sisters from the central Israel city of Bat Yam were diagnosed with coronavirus, having contracted it from their mother, Channel 12 reported.

One of them is a tenth-grade student at the city’s Shazar high school, with 28 of her classmates and 10 staff members now entering isolation. The other attends a kindergarten, whose 35 kids and four staff members have all been quarantined.

The municipality of Or Yehuda said that a mother and two children were also diagnosed with the virus, sending children at the city’s Ehud Manor School and a municipal kindergarten into isolation.

On Wednesday, two students at Tzafit high school in Beit Berl tested positive for the virus. The school remained open, but 62 students and staff members were sent to isolation.

Israelis sit bars and restaurants in Jerusalem, on May 27, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The newly instituted coronavirus cabinet tasked with facilitating the government’s response to the virus is concerned that fewer people are coming in to be tested, according to Channel 13, which also said the ministers had expressed concern that even fewer Israelis will seek to get tested during the Shavuot holiday on Friday.

Recent weeks had seen a sharp drop-off in the number of new virus cases, with the country lifting restrictions on movement, businesses and educational institutions.

Restaurants, pubs, hotels, pools and other establishments began opening up and hosting patrons Wednesday, hours after authorities gave the go-ahead to ease pandemic restrictions and allow some of the last businesses remaining shut to reopen.

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