Coronavirus: Cases climb as gov't puts more neighborhoods under lockdown

Close to 700 people diagnosed in one day * Netanyahu says Israel to collaborate with UAE against COVID-19

Beachgoers hang out at the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions ease in Israel May 21, 2020 (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Beachgoers hang out at the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions ease in Israel May 21, 2020
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
The number of coronavirus patients in Israel is doubling about every eight to 10 days, according to Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy. On Thursday, the Ministerial Committee on Declaring Restricted Zones put closures on three areas of Ashdod and on Bat Yam, as nearly 700 people were diagnosed with the virus, and as it spread through the IDF, schools and senior centers. Hundreds more people were forced into isolation.
At press time, some 6,084 Israelis were infected with the virus, the highest number since early May. The number of new patients was the highest in three months.
The number of patients in serious condition also continues to climb. There were 67 patients diagnosed as in serious condition in June and only 37 in May.
There are 29 people on ventilators.
Another patient died, an 88-year-old resident of the Golden Age senior center in the Anglo-heavy Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem, bringing the death toll to 309.
Another seven residents of the center remain hospitalized, including one who is in serious condition.
The ministerial committee extended the closure on the Bedouin town of Arara until July 1. And, although it removed closures on Rahat and the Ajami neighborhood of Tel Aviv, the government committed to increasing enforcement of Health Ministry regulations in those areas.
The coronavirus cabinet will meet Sunday in light of the growing coronavirus crisis.
“There is an outbreak,” said Levy on Thursday during an interview with Kan news, calling on the public to wear masks, social distance and maintain good hygiene.
“I don’t think the issue is that people are not listening,” head of Public Health Prof. Sigal Sadetsky told N12 in an interview late Wednesday. “We are all in this boat together and no one wants to lockdown again. The million-dollar question is how to balance between zero and 100.”
In his interview, Levy expressed similar sentiments, stressing that the Health Ministry does not envision a national closure. On the other hand, he said the ministry evaluates several times per day if there is a need to modify some of the regulations. He noted that the government is considering backtracking on large, 250-people events and considering reducing the number of people who attend weddings, for example.
“Infections are doubling about every eight to 10 days,” he said. “We are walking on a tightrope.”
The Health Ministry showed cases in more than 100 cities and towns, with the highest numbers of new patients in Arara in the Negev, Hura, Rahat, Bnei Brak and Jerusalem.
THE NUMBER of people screened each day remains high: 17,697 on Wednesday, the Health Ministry reported. On Tuesday, the highest number tested in one day was reached at 19,546. The infection rate therefore remains high: nearly 4% of those screened on Wednesday tested positive.
On Wednesday, Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz instructed his ministry to prepare to open additional coronavirus hotels for those who contract the virus and cannot quarantine at home. One additional hotel was opened at the Sde Hermon School near in Kibbutz Snir in northern Israel. The command is already operating six others across the country.
At the same time, the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer reopened its underground critical care corona unit, which holds up to 50 patients. The hospital said that it is preparing to accommodate at least 350 additional seriously ill people.
Currently, the hospital is treating 21 patients, including five in serious condition.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Hedy Silberman was placed in isolation on Thursday, just days after it was reported that seven senior IDF officers were in quarantine after coming in contact with known patients. In addition, Military Intelligence Directorate head Maj.-Gen. Tamir Hayman entered isolation.
According to data released Wednesday, to date, some 326 soldiers have contracted coronavirus and 89 are still ill. More than 4,000 soldiers are in quarantine.
Moreover, the Education Ministry reported that 861 students and staff have novel coronavirus, more than 22,000 are in quarantine and 226 schools are closed.
Fear of the coronavirus spreading at the Ayalon Prison in Ramle was raised on Thursday, after a prison guard was infected with the coronavirus. Dozens of inmates and detainees entered isolation and the Prison Service has launched an epidemiological investigation to determine how many prison personnel and inmates were in contact with him.
At the same time, the ban on entry of foreigners into Israel has been extended until at least August 1, a spokesperson for the Airports Authority confirmed. Until now, it has remained unclear when the skies might open to tourists.
A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that “we had never set a date. The original announcement said it was until a new decision [was made]. There is no new decision.”
However, a spokesperson for the Airports Authority confirmed for the Post that the airlines were updated on Thursday via a letter from the authority. The statement read, “Passengers from all countries who are not Israeli citizens or residents are not permitted to enter the State of Israel, including transit flights, other than passengers who have a designated permit from the Population and Immigration Authority.”
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Jerusalem. During the visit, Netanyahu said Israel was looking to open up to Greek and Cypriot visitors starting August 1. However, since that date, the infection rate in Israel has surged.
Foreign entry into Israel has been prohibited with few exceptions since mid-March as the coronavirus spread across the state and the world. The Interior Ministry updated the list of exceptions earlier this month. It includes first-degree relatives entering Israel for weddings and funerals or other special occasions, as well as some foreign workers and some students.
Anyone who enters Israel from abroad must enter 14 days of quarantine.
Netanyahu said that Israel and the United Arab Emirates will work together to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This cooperation will be in research and technology development, in areas that will improve the health security of the entire region,” he said during the Air Force pilots’ course graduation ceremony on Thursday. “This will bring a blessing to many in our region.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.