Gov’t mulls new red zones as 700 diagnosed in a day

Edelstein in first interview: ‘No serious explanation’ why corona testing did not increase sooner

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)
The Health Ministry was expected to place several more cities under lockdown as the number of coronavirus cases surges across the country. Among the cities under consideration were Dimona, Kiryat Gat, Ashdod and Ramle, though no decisions were made at press time.
On Tuesday morning, the Health Ministry reported that 721 new patients were infected in the last day – the highest number since April 2.
From midnight to press time, another 469 people were diagnosed with the virus. There are currently 7,403 active patients in Israel, including 52 in serious condition, among them 24 who are intubated.
Moreover, one person died, bringing the death toll to 320.
“We cannot talk about mistakes or right measures,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Tuesday during The Jerusalem Post’s inaugural virtual conference. “I think we will only know [if we made the right decisions] in the long run.”
He admitted that Israel closed fast and opened fast, but “imagine if we stayed closed another month. Then we would not have enough funds for the Health Ministry I am heading right now.”
Despite the spread of the virus, Edelstein said he does not envision a closure in Israel like the one at the end of March and in April. However, to not lock down, he said, the Health Ministry would have to be more effective at cutting the infection chain, Israelis would need to follow the ministry’s regulations, enforcement would need to be more effective, and the government would have to identify the right red zones.
The Hebrew website N12 broke down some of the data that the Health Ministry provided on its website to see where most people are getting infected. According to the data, 137 people were infected on buses in the last week, 86 at supermarkets, 58 at restaurants, cafes and bakeries, 39 at malls and 32 at other stores. Another 22 were infected at pharmacies, 21 at event halls, 15 at workout centers and 11 at hospitals, among other places.
The cities with the most new infections are: Arara, with 180 new patients in the last three days; Baka al-Gharbiya (150); Bnei Brak (135); Yad Binyamin (96); Lehavim (55); Hura (40); Tiberius (38); Dimona (38); Rechasim (36); and Elad (34).
At the same time, more than 30 students and five teachers who work at a school in Ashdod have tested positive for the virus, as has Tel Aviv Magistrate Court Judge Dan Sa’adon.
The Israel Court Spokesperson’s Unit released a statement, explaining that all those who had been to the court since June 21 were required to contact the Health Ministry and await further instructions.
Edelstein said during the Post conference that in his first two weeks in his new role – a role he said he chose – he held several meetings within the ministry and with other healthcare professionals that led him to believe “there was no serious explanation why” the number of people screened for coronavirus per day could not be increased.
Since then, he stepped up daily testing, screening an average of 17,000 people per day – up from less than 10,000 during the peak of the crisis by expanding the criteria for those who can be tested.
Additionally, the ministry hired some 280 more medical students and paramedics to work in the Public Health Department and carry out epidemiological investigations of coronavirus patients to help break the chain of infection. But Edelstein cautioned that “if the numbers grow [too high], we cannot cut the chain, [and] then a closure is a possibility.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke on Tuesday at the changing-of-the-guard ceremony for the director-general of the Education Ministry.
“I held several consultations with the minister of health and with the National Security Council because the virus is spreading,” he said. “We see it in the world. It is spreading worldwide and, unfortunately, in Israel, too. We are calling for action: On the one hand, to stop its spread, and on the other, to allow economic activity, which I discuss with the finance minister several times per day.”
His statements came a day after the government approved a list of new restrictions.
Effective immediately, weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs (or similar religious events) will be limited to 250 people. All other events, including circumcision ceremonies and communal prayer, will be capped at 50 people.
After July 10 and until at least July 31, weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs that take place indoors shall be limited to no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue, with no more than 100 people in attendance. Events in open spaces can continue to have 250 guests.