Coronavirus: Health Ministry likely to push to extend lockdown by a week

Israel nears 10,000 new cases in a single day.

Sheba Medical Center team at the Coronavirus isolation ward of Sheba Medical Center unit, in Ramat Gan, June 30, 2020. (photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)
Sheba Medical Center team at the Coronavirus isolation ward of Sheba Medical Center unit, in Ramat Gan, June 30, 2020.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)
Israel crossed a threshold on Tuesday, with 9,665 new coronavirus cases diagnosed in a single day – the highest daily number since the start of the pandemic.
However, nearly 130,000 people were screened, roughly double the number of people being tested per day before the second lockdown. Some 7.6% of people tested had a positive result.
Israel likewise surpassed half a million people infected since the start of the pandemic. As of Tuesday evening, 508,604 people have or have had the virus. The number of serious cases is also at an all-time high: 1,072.
More than 50 people died in a single day again, bringing the death toll to 3,756.
“We are in a wave of illness that worries us greatly,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Tuesday from a coronavirus vaccination complex in Ashdod. “We should see the results of the lockdown in the coming days.”
Senior officials in the Health Ministry say that they hope Israel has hit a peak and the number of new cases, and also serious cases, will start to decline in the coming days.
But, in the meantime, “it is impossible to imagine that we will exit [the lockdown] within 10 days,” said Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of Public Health Services, on Tuesday. She added that “there is no doubt that part of the increase is due to the British mutation.”
She said, however, that Israel is starting to see a decline in the reproduction rate – the “R” that reflects how many people each sick person infects. The number is down to 1.17 from over 1.2 just a few days prior. Alroy-Preis said that there is no way to reduce infection without imposing significant restrictions, hence the reason the Health Ministry reportedly plans to appeal to the government to lengthen the lockdown by up to two weeks, but more likely one.
“The lockdown and guidelines need to be maintained to lower morbidity levels,” Alroy-Preis said. “We will monitor the status of the infection indices and give the recommendations accordingly.”
She said that making a decision about when to exit the lockdown this time around would be more complex than after the first and second waves “because we have the vaccine factor that affects the morbidity. So, one of the critical things to look at is the number of serious patients. As soon as we see a drop, we will know that it is possible to open.”
Alroy-Preis also noted that if the reproduction rate is more than one, it means that the outbreak is still spreading too fast and this would delay any relief.
When the economy does start to open, it is expected to take place in stages, first beginning with preschools and lower schools, street shops and one-on-one treatments, as recommended the last time.
More than 80% of the country’s population lives in red areas, she stressed, adding that “it affects all sectors.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “there is no substitute for social distancing, hygiene and wearing masks.” He was speaking at a Leumit vaccination complex, where Israel’s two millionth citizen was inoculated.
He said that “during the month of March we will release the economy completely, and in a graded manner even earlier” – but that for now, people must adhere to the Health Ministry’s guidelines.
“I have heard that major European countries are talking about a closure until April: not so here,” Netanyahu said. “We can finish it very quickly. But this can only be done if we work together.”