Israel Passes 1,000 New Coronavirus Cases for First Time

YERUSHALAYIM -
Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a lab at Meuhedet Health Services branch in Lod, on Thursday. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Israel hit a new high, or perhaps a new low, as 1,090 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus over the last day, according to the Health Ministry.

Among the now 9,618 sick patients, 70 are listed in serious condition – a number that has worryingly continued to grow over the past week. During a briefing on Thursday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that the number of patients in serious condition increased by 50% in just the last week.

The new number of patients was released as a series of restrictions were rolled out at 8 a.m. on Friday.

The new limitations, approved by the Cabinet on Thursday night, included a limit of up to 20 people in most closed spaces, including inside homes, and up to 50 people at shuls and event halls.

A decision on restaurants was put off for several days amid disagreements between the health and finance ministries.

Shuls were initially included in the 20-person limitations, but were upgraded to 50 after a conversation between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri.

Rabbi Deri told the prime minister: “It isn’t fair that in restaurants, bars and clubs where the danger is greater, 50 people can be allowed to gather while in shuls the government will only enter allow 20. In clubs, the people do not keep social distance and do not all wear masks. In shuls, no one eats, there are no dances and mispallelim are careful to wear masks, adhere social distancing, and they want to limit them to 20 people?”

There was one more death since Thursday evening, bringing Israel’s toll from the coronavirus pandemic to 325.

Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced the renewed measures at a press conference on Thursday, in which Netanyahu said “the virus is still here, in a big way.” The challenge is not simple and “the battle will take time,” he said.

Netanyahu said he was concerned with keeping the economy going, but that this needed to be done with respect for the virus, comparing the necessary policy to “playing an accordion” — sometimes being opened and sometimes closed.

“We are always looking for the balance between the virus and the economy,” he said. “It’s easiest to leave things as they are. Everything’s open, everyone’s supposedly satisfied, but if we do that, we’ll very quickly lose control.

“We need to return to restrictive policies in order to flatten the curve,” he said.