Coronavirus cabinet designates red zones as death toll hits 300

More than 200 new cases in a single day * Health Ministry tests 17,212 people

Coronavirus lab at Hadassah (photo credit: HADASSAH)
Coronavirus lab at Hadassah
(photo credit: HADASSAH)
Bedouin towns in the South and areas of southern Tel Aviv where many foreign workers live face an immediate lockdown after they were designated “red zones” by the coronavirus cabinet on Thursday.
The move came as the number of cases of coronavirus in Israel continues to spike, increasing by more than 200 within 24 hours. At last count, the number of active cases was 3,019, including 34 in serious condition, 24 of whom are intubated.
Moreover, another Israeli succumbed to the virus, bringing the death toll to 300. The mortality rate in Israel is 1.6%, which means about one out of 61 coronavirus patients have died.
“I’m afraid that in a month and a half we will see a mass of severely ill patients,” outgoing Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov warned on Thursday in an interview with N12.
Rather than globally reinstate restrictions, the cabinet decided to step up communication and enforcement of Health Ministry regulations. The Israel Police said it administered 965 fines on Thursday.
However, the cabinet agreed to monitor the situation and reconvene next week to consider further restrictions, including returning middle and high schools to a capsule or distance learning system.
The Education Ministry reported Thursday evening that 460 students and faculty have tested positive for coronavirus, and 25,517 are in isolation. Some 165 schools are closed.
Israel is averaging about 200 new patients every day, the same amount it had during the first coronavirus peak, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday. The number of cases began doubling every couple of days then, and the country was at risk of having a high number of serious patients and deaths.
“The distance between 200 and the peak was 10 days away,” Netanyahu said during a prime-time television briefing. “If it continues, we will restore restrictions, and the economy will stop.”
On March 22, Israel had 188 daily cases. On March 31, it had 663 daily cases, a 252% increase.
The spike in cases is because “we did not adhere to the rules,” Netanyahu said. “I say it directly and honestly: We did not. I ask you to do what I am talking about more strongly in the coming days.”
Using the Hebrew acronym mami, he said the public should remember the regulations: wear a mask, keep a distance of two meters and wash hands.
At the same time, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said while “the easiest thing for me is to lead a line of closures,” he would first tackle the virus by increasing testing.
On Wednesday, Israel tested the highest number of people in one day to date: 17,212.
Speaking after Netanyahu, Finance Minister Israel Katz announced two additional financial-assistance measures for unemployed workers aged over 67 and for employees eligible for negative income tax.
Workers aged over 67 who are yet to return to the workforce will receive an additional grant of NIS 4,000, Katz said. Individuals eligible for negative income tax will immediately receive all financial aid previously set to be paid over the next year.
According to data published by the Israeli Employment Service on Thursday evening, almost 323,000 employees have formally reported their return to the workplace since restrictions were first eased on April 19.
Eytan Halon contributed to this report.