Police to step-up enforcement as coronavirus cases surge

Hebrew University: Country to see significant increase in number of hospitalized patients in coming days

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein meet with the two millionth vaccine recipient.. (photo credit: ODED KARNI/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein meet with the two millionth vaccine recipient..
(photo credit: ODED KARNI/GPO)
Israel Police will step-up monitoring and enforcement over the weekend to help slow mounting cases of coronavirus, it said. This will include additional checkpoints and the deployment of thousands of officers throughout the country – both inside cities and on the nation’s roads.
“Most police activity will focus on supervising and enforcing regulations, with an emphasis on prohibited gatherings, restrictions on movement and trade, and compliance with isolation obligations,” the police said.
Barring winter weather advisories, additional enforcement will be put in place on Friday and Saturday. Some 25 checkpoints will be set up on intercity roads between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. At night, the checkpoints will be reduced to 12. There will also be more motorcycle and foot patrols as well as the cooperation of the police air unit, among other efforts.
Enforcement will return to the current outline during the week, in which some roadblocks are removed throughout the day, to allow essential workers to get back and forth from their jobs.
The move comes after some 9,417 people were diagnosed with coronavirus on Wednesday, and another 6,260 between midnight and press time on Thursday, according to the Health Ministry.
Of the more than 121,000 people screened, 7.9% tested positive.
Wednesday was the third day in a row with more than 9,000 new cases.
There are also still an unprecedentedly high number of people in serious condition. Of the 1,802 people in the hospital, almost all of them – 1,117 – are in serious condition, the Health Ministry reported, including 280 on ventilators.
The number of serious patients represents a peak. Before Thursday, the highest number of serious cases was 1,102, which the ministry reported earlier in the week. Hospitals have had to open new units and refrain from offering elective surgeries to manage the case load.
Moreover, some 50 people died on Wednesday and another 34 people died before press time on Thursday, bringing the death toll to 3,860. More than 200 people succumbed to COVID-19 this week.
The only silver lining is that the “R” reproduction rate – the number of people each sick person infects – has slightly declined.
ISRAEL’S VACCINATION campaign has had no significant effect on the spread of the virus, a team of Hebrew University researchers who advise the coronavirus cabinet reported on Thursday. However, they said that “it is possible that a stabilizing trend in morbidity has begun” and that the country should see a reduction in new daily cases within the next week.
According to the team’s predictions, the country will not see a significant increase in the number of hospitalized patients in the coming days and relief only by the end of the month.
The mortality rate increased, the researchers said, and the average time from hospitalization in serious condition to death has also shortened.
Given the high rate of infection, the Health Ministry is expected to ask to extend the latest lockdown by at least a week, in meetings that are meant to take place on Sunday and for which the Hebrew University team prepared its report.
But the researchers said that no decisions should be made next week. Rather, the team said it is not possible to know with certainty if there will be a need for a significant extension of the lockdown or if the regulations will need to be tightened, and instead recommended that a decision be made only in another week, on January 21.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that the government and the Health Ministry asks the question many times per day of when Israel will be able to further open up and “we still don’t know.”
“It is impossible to imagine that we will exit [the lockdown] within 10 days,” Head of Public Health Services Sharon Alroy-Preis said in a briefing on Tuesday.
The ministry has stressed that any exit strategy would not happen all at once, but would be done in stages, beginning with the opening of schools.
NETANYAHU HAS been holding discussions with health officials on the subject in recent days, including on how and when to debut the green passport, which could further open the economy.
“I had several talks with the health minister and other professionals to bring the green passport plan to fruition as soon as possible, which will allow us to start bringing life back to normal,” Netanyahu said. “Even when we do, we will have to keep wearing masks for the younger population and those who are not vaccinated.”
On Thursday evening, Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein went to Ramle to celebrate the vaccination of Israel’s two millionth citizen, a 22-year-old kindergarten assistant, with her first dose of the vaccine. At press time, more than 153,000 people had received two doses and should therefore be immune to the virus within the week.
“Every hour or two, I get a call from the leaders of countries around the world,” Netanyahu said, “and they just ask for help.” He said that “Israel has become the world champion in vaccines, but we also have good friends and I told them we will help as much as we can.”
More vaccines are on their way from Pfizer, the prime minister has said. Another large shipment is expected in the country on Sunday and more each week thereafter, with the goal of vaccinating around 200,000 people a day with their first or second dose. By the end of March, Israel should have twice inoculated more than five million people.
Health officials in the ministry and health funds have said that by next week, Israelis as young as 40 or 45 should be able to make an appointment to get vaccinated.
THE COMBINATION OF people getting vaccinated and the fear of the British and South African mutations, which spread the virus even faster, are complicating the Health Ministry’s calculations about when to exit.
Alroy-Preis said earlier in the week that the ministry would look not only at the total number of new daily cases, but also whether there is a decline in serious cases, meaning that as the elderly and high-risk people get their second dose, the economy may be able to open even if the virus is spreading.
However, she made clear that the reproduction rate would need to be one or less.
The Infectious Diseases Research Lab at Sheba Medical Center reported that it has identified four additional cases of the South African variant. So far, eight cases have been discovered in the country.
In addition, the Health Ministry is now promoting a recommendation that Israelis who return to the country from Brazil isolate in coronavirus hotels after the discovery of what is considered a new Brazilian coronavirus mutation.
The recommendation is subject to the approval of the cabinet.
“We must act to prevent the entry and spread of variants in Israel,” the ministry said.
The recommendation came after the variant was detected in Japan among travelers from Brazil.
The ministry said that the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine appears to be effective against this variant, like it is believed to be against the British and South African mutations.