Virus-Stricken Israel to Discuss New Lockdown

YERUSHALAYIM -
IDF technicians carry out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in an IDF lab in central Israel on Wednesday. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Israel reached a new daily record of confirmed coronavirus cases, the  Health Ministry said Thursday, as a new nationwide lockdown to curb the pandemic appeared imminent.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is set to convene an urgent Cabinet meeting on Thursday in the wake of the record daily coronavirus tally.

The officials are set to debate the National Security Council (NSC) recommendations to limit restaurant activity to deliveries only, close shuls and yeshivos, summer schools, universities, beaches, gyms and swimming pools and significantly reduce public transport.

In addition, the officials were to mull limiting all social gatherings to 10 people and imposing curfews during nighttime or weekends but not on weekdays.

The prime minister is set to convene the Coronavirus Cabinet in the evening hours to put the latest restrictions up for a vote, but it is not expected that all proposals would be approved.

A similar meeting was held on Tuesday evening, attended by former Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, who oversaw the last nationwide lockdown.

According to the Health Ministry, 1,898 people were diagnosed with coronavirus on Wednesday, a new daily high.

The Coronavirus National Knowledge and Information Center and the Health Ministry both reported that with 24,892 coronavirus tests conducted Wednesday, the infection rate now stands at a staggering 7%.

The number of patients in serious condition has increased to 204 – of which 56 are ventilated. The number of Israelis who have died from coronavirus rose to 377.

The number of active patients currently ill with the disease now stands at a staggering 23,926.

Yerushalayim has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus patients with 3,410 cases, followed by Tel Aviv with 1,812 and Bnei Brak with 1,729.

Beitar Illit, which was in lockdown until Wednesday morning, reported 496 new cases in the past seven days.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein warned on Wednesday that the next few days could be critical because of the “emergency situation” Israel was facing.

“The figures are not encouraging, we will have to consider every option in order to slow the infection rate,” he warned. “If we do not have all options at our disposal we will end up with a lockdown,” Edelstein said, following a tour of Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem in Yerushalayim, urging the public to stand by his controversial steps targeting community-spread clusters.

He added that the government was doing “all it can” to avoid a repeat of the long lockdown Israelis had to endure during the first wave of the infection in March and April.

“If we don’t take important, yet small, steps in the next three to four days, reality will reimpose a lockdown on us,” Edelstein said, although he refused to say what kind of lockdown would be introduced and whether it would be nationwide and all-encompassing like the previous one.