257 New Coronavirus Cases in Israel Over the Weekend

Cleaning workers disinfect an ATM at a bank in Ramat Gan. (Flash90)

The number of coronavirus cases in Israel is growing. Over the weekend, between Thursday night and Motzoei Shabbos, 257 people were diagnosed with coronavirus.

“We need to assume that we are in an outbreak of unknown magnitude,” said outgoing Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov during recent internal deliberations. He said that the number of coronavirus cases continues to expand and that “it will take time until we understand the extent” of the challenge.

Three more people passed away over the weekend, bringing the toll to 295. Of the 2,407 active cases, some 21 are intubated. It was only last week that there were under 2,000 active cases.

It should be noted that the number of people being tested for the virus has nearly tripled, which may explain the number of new cases. The Health Ministry reported that more than 16,160 people were tested on Friday. The increased screening comes on the backdrop of a change in testing policy, rolled out by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein. Now, people with or without coronavirus symptoms can request screening.

Although there are more patients, the increased testing rate means that still only around 1% of those tested are found to have coronavirus. Medical experts believe that if Israel maintains an infection rate of one to less than one, restrictions can continue to be lifted. If the rate hits even 1:1.1 or 1:1.2, then another lockdown could be necessary.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said last month, when he eased the restricitons, that if Israel saw more than 100 new patients per day that a lockdown could be reinstated, but no such move has been made thus far.

Although the main source of infection still appears to be the schools, new reports of coronavirus inside senior living centers have also started to emerge. Seven residents and three staff members from a senior living facility in Or Yehudah were diagnosed with coronavirus over the weekend, including one resident who was hospitalized at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer.

As for the schools, the Education Ministry is reporting 330 students and faculty who are sick with coronavirus as of Motzoei Shabbos, and some 16,327 who are in isolation. Some 106 institutions are closed.

According to the ministry, 99% of schools continue to operate normally and the number of closed institutions is only 0.42%.

The majority (56%) of cases are in Yerushalayim, the ministry said, among them 80% from the Gymnasia Rechavia school.