Israel tops China in number of coronavirus cases

Coronavirus czar: 'Perhaps there is no choice but to impose a closure'

Ichilov Medical team at the coronavirus unit, in the Ichilov hospital, Tel Aviv, Israel, July 28, 2020. (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
Ichilov Medical team at the coronavirus unit, in the Ichilov hospital, Tel Aviv, Israel, July 28, 2020.
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
Israel has had more coronavirus cases than China, according to numbers presented by the Health Ministry on Tuesday.
As of Tuesday evening, Israel has had 86,147 people infected with the novel coronavirus and China has had 84,712, according to the World ‘O Meters website. However, Israel has had fewer than 650 people die from COVID-19 while China has had 4,634 fatalities – more than seven times as many.
During a briefing Tuesday, Prof. Ronni Gamzu said that the country is still struggling to lower its infection rate and that Israel is running out of time.
“I want to succeed in the issue of preventing gatherings,” Gamzu said. “I tell the citizens of Israel: If you do not succeed in preventing yourself from [attending] gathering, then perhaps there is no choice but to impose a closure.”
He noted that he is less concerned about gatherings in open spaces, such as on beaches, but that in closed places people are more likely to become infected.
He said he wants to avoid a lockdown to give hope to the 800,000 people who are unemployed, because another closure could mean another half-a-million people out of work. He cautioned, however, that this could only be done if Health Ministry directives are adhered to.
“The public needs to understand that a business that allows too large a crowd to gather will be closed,” Gamzu stressed.
He also said that he is seeing a phenomenon where people with symptoms are not being screened.
“There is a decrease in the amount of people being tested,” Gamzu said. “There is also a situation where people are afraid to be tested for all sorts of reasons. It bothers me and creates an effect of latent morbidity.
“Such people may infect others at home and elsewhere,” he continued. “They may be avoiding isolation – but it just does not make sense. I call for people to be tested.”
AT THE PRESS conference, the Health Ministry issued new testing guidelines – again. This time they were presented by the ministry’s new head of public health, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis.
“We are expanding the scope of the testing,” she said. “We will now screen people without symptoms who were in contact with a verified patient, if the epidemiological investigation defined that there was ‘dangerous contact’ between them.
“I ask everyone: Even if they test negative, isolation must be completed.”
As per the new protocol, going forward, people who have encountered someone who is known to have the virus will be tested, regardless of their symptoms. Until now, only family members of the patient were required to be screened.
Additionally, anyone who is planning to undergo an elective medical procedure will be tested 72 hours in advance to ensure that he or she is not a carrier.
Alroy-Preis additionally explained that medical workers who were exposed to a known coronavirus patient could potentially leave isolation as early as 10 days later. Under the new system, the health care worker would enter quarantine and be tested between five to eight days after coming in contact with the patient. If the test comes out negative, then the medical professional would be retested on day 10. If that test is also negative, the worker will be released.
Israelis considering traveling abroad would need to adhere to the requirements of the countries to which they are visiting.
On Monday, the Health Ministry reported that 23,982 people were screened for the virus, of which around 7% (1,693 people) tested positive. Another 1,091 were diagnosed with corona between midnight and press time.
In his remarks, Gamzu also referred to the challenge of “red cities,” such as Bnei Brak, Elad, Beitar Illit and Modi’in Illit, which he said are not yet being fully managed.
“A lot more work needs to be done – and it does not happen fast,” Gamzu stressed. He said specifically that the Health Ministry is weighing imposing a closure on Modi’in Illit, where there were 1,167 active cases on Tuesday, including 618 who were diagnosed in the last week.
He said that he does not want to place closures on the ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities that are red and orange, but that there may be no choice.
There are currently four red cities: Modi’in Illit, Bnei Brak, Ein Naqquba and Kafr Bara. However, there are 25 orange cities, including Jerusalem, which continues to have the highest number of sick people – 3,886 at press time.
Despite the rising numbers, on Tuesday evening, the government approved the framework for immediately opening cultural events, the Prime Minister’s Office said. According to the new guidelines, performances will take place outside with the audience seated in capsules of up to 20 people. As many as 500 people can attend an event.
“Culture is important to the mental health and wellbeing of the public,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Gamzu spoke with Israel’s Channel 13 Tuesday night and reiterated that he hopes schools would open on September 1 as planned, though he cautioned that this could depend on the rate of infection. He said that several health experts had recommended pushing off the start of school for students in grades four and above until after the High Holidays.
Regarding that, he said: “We’ll decide soon.”