Over 3,000 people were diagnosed with coronavirus in Israel over the last 24 hours, breaking the record yet again. The Health Ministry published the number early Thursday, ahead of the Coronavirus Cabinet meeting.
The spike, which came just two days after millions of Israeli children went back to school, prompted health officials to warn that additional nationwide health restrictions could be rolled out to curb the spread.
According to a report on Kan News, the plan to be presented to the Coronavirus Cabinet by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and coronavirus project manager Prof. Ronni Gamzu includes a general lockdown on eight “reddest” communities as well as a nighttime curfew in the remaining “red” towns and cities.
A new list of “red” towns and cities to be presented before the Coronavirus Cabinet includes 31 areas, among which are the chareidi cities of Bnei Brak and Elad and the Arab city of Nazareth, which are also set to be declared “red” cities. Both Bnei Brak and Elad have already been subject to closures. Naming these cities as “red” would mean the closure of the educational institutions in the cities. Twelve neighborhoods in Yerushalayim were also on Gamzu’s list to be deemed “red” – none of them chareidi.
Most of the areas on the “red” list are Arab communities.
“Red and orange cities will require additional restrictions,” Gamzu said Wednesday, referring to areas designated as having high infection rates under his “traffic light” plan.
The Health Ministry on Tuesday released a list of 23 “red” cities. Most of those are Arab-majority locales, and only a few are chareidi areas.
A senior official in the Coronavirus Cabinet told Kan News that the new data, with over 3,000 new cases, “will force the Cabinet to decide on significant restrictions in red cities. The new figure may give impetus to a renewed demand for lockdown or extensive nationwide restrictions.”
Another Cabinet member, Science Minister Yizhar Shay, cautioned that “we must prevent the flooding of hospitals and reduce the number of patients.”
He said that in order to prevent extensive restrictions across the whole country, greater restrictions – and enforcement of them – must be implemented.
“Extend the closure of educational institutions,” he recommended, “reduce the number of meetings between people… It is in our hands,” Shay said. “This is a virus that attacks those who are not careful.”
The government has resisted demands to lock down “red areas,” due to the economic toll.
The number of active patients rose to 23,698, including 418 who are in serious condition, among them 118 who are on ventilators. 3,074 of the 34,131 people screened for the virus on Wednesday tested positive – a rate of 9%.
The Health Ministry announced no new deaths since Wednesday night, keeping the toll at 969.
Israeli media reported Wednesday about a back-to-school party in Be’er Sheva at which dozens of teenagers gathered without keeping restrictions, such as wearing masks or social distancing. Later, it was discovered that one of the students was infected with coronavirus and the entire grade of 107 students had to enter isolation.
Similar parties, gatherings and even concerts took place in the Hefer Valley region and Dimona.