Coronavirus: Almost 800 people dead in 2021

Two health funds start to open appointments for the vaccines to 35 year-olds.

Israelis are seen walking next to a bus along the Jaffa Street light rail tracks in the rain amid the coronavirus lockdown, on January 19, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israelis are seen walking next to a bus along the Jaffa Street light rail tracks in the rain amid the coronavirus lockdown, on January 19, 2021.
A total of 8,511 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a positivity rate of 9.2%, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday, a day after the cabinet decided to extend the lockdown in the country until the end of January.
Almost 800 people have died from the novel coronavirus in Israel since the beginning of the year, with the death toll currently standing at 4,142. While the number marked a sharp increase from the same figure on Tuesday, the ministry stressed that only 21 of those people had died in the previous 24 hours, and the remainder were deaths that had not been previously reported.
Some 95,465 tests were administered yesterday. A total of 1,113 individuals are seriously ill, with 344 in critical condition and 308 intubated. This is a marked increase from the previous day, when 277 patients were on ventilators. As of yesterday, 82,930 Israelis were sick with the virus.
This number of new diagnoses was down from the record number of cases reported in the 24 hours prior – 10,021 – although the morbidity remained high. Experts believe that among the factors responsible for the current situation are the new, highly contagious virus variants.
During the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash explained that between 30% and 40% of current cases are infected with the British strain, and that he expects the variant to become the most common in the country within a few weeks. So far, 22 people have been identified as infected with the South African variant.
On Tuesday, the ministers approved an extension of the current reinforced lockdown until the end of January. The closure includes the shutdown of the education system and of all nonessential commercial activities.
Moreover, the cabinet decided that all passengers entering Israel from abroad would be required to present a negative COVID-19 test performed no earlier than 72 hours before their flight prior to boarding the plane. The decision was approved by the Knesset Economic Committee and is scheduled to become effective at midnight between Friday and Saturday.
The cabinet also committed to increasing the fines for violations against the lockdown, a condition required by Blue and White ministers to support extending the closures. As of yesterday, however, the party accused Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, as well as the Likud, for refusing to convene the Knesset plenum to approve the measure.
Also on Wednesday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein met with the heads of the public hospitals, which are facing a deep financial struggle.
Public hospitals in Israel are independent and rely mostly on donations, as opposed to facilities directly owned and funded by the government or by the health funds.
Seven hospitals, including Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Hadassah-University Medical Center, have set up a tent to protest the situation in front of the Finance Ministry since last Wednesday.
“Every minute, every hour, every day, when seven hospital directors – who are responsible for the health of two million citizens at the height of the coronavirus crisis – sit here in a tent instead of being with the staff and patients – it is a shame for the country,” Prof. Ofer Marin, director of Shaare Zedek said.
“We have been here four days, and no one is negotiating with us. Shaare Zedek did not pay taxes on the 15th of the month, because we have no more money. We will not accept any Band-Aid solution and [will accept] no less than a two-year solution,” he added.
In response to growing frustration felt among the country’s hospitals, Edelstein said: “Your struggle is right and we all identify with it. We understand you do not want to solve it just with a Band-Aid solution, even if it is the best Band-Aid. I will work with the government to reach the best solution.”