Coronavirus Cabinet to Meet Tuesday, Further Restrictions Unlikely Before Yom Kippur

Police at a temporary “checkpoint” in Ashdod on Friday afternoon. (Flash90)

Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu warned Sunday night that virus numbers were reaching “emergency” levels that could see the country face 600 deaths a month and ordered hospitals to add new virus wards.

In an interview with Channel 12 news, he said that he fears the number of coronavirus patients in serious condition could reach 800 by the end of the week, a number that has been frequently touted as the maximum that the Israeli medical system can cope with.

Gamzu said he feared that at current rates, Israel will see some 20 deaths a day, or 600 per month, nearly half of the national toll since the start of the pandemic.

“Our situation is very grave,” he said. Israel recorded 30 new deaths in 24 hours on Shabbos.

The Health Ministry on Sunday night reported another 1,906 coronavirus cases, bringing the number of infections since the pandemic began to 187,396. It also confirmed another seven deaths, raising the national toll to 1,236.

The case number was significantly lower than recent days, but that reflected the drop in testing over Rosh Hashanah.

The Health Ministry said there are 52,262 confirmed active cases, including 643 in serious condition, with a record 170 patients on ventilators.

Gamzu said that with those numbers likely to soon hit 800 serious cases, he had ordered all hospitals to open additional coronavirus wards. He said there would be some reduction in elective procedures.

However, Gamzu said that at this stage he did not favor further tightening restrictions on the public, two days into a second national lockdown.

Channel 12 said both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein back further restrictions, as the Coronavirus Cabinet is set to meet Tuesday to vote on plans to tighten the nationwide lockdown.

Among the new measures being weighed were further limiting the number of employees at private sector workplaces and upping enforcement of the virus regulations at protests and shuls, according to the report.

“We have to give it a chance before we express our complete lack of faith in Israelis, the government has to give it a chance,” Gamzu said, noting that “the price for the complete shutdown of the private sector is very harsh.”

However, news reports said any tightening of the national lockdown was not expected to take force before Yom Kippur.

Gamzu said that based on the evidence of the first two days of lockdown, most Israelis were complying and not looking for “loopholes.”