A record breaking 6,861 new daily cases of coronavirus were reported by the Health Ministry on Wednesday morning, after nearly 60,000 tests were conducted.
Although the record number of tests conducted – 59,169 – partially accounts for this, the positive rate rose to 11.4%, above what it has been in recent weeks.
Israel has now had 200,041 cases since the start of the pandemic. There are 634 people in serious condition, including 171 patients who were intubated. The death toll stands at 1,316.
Israel now has one of the world’s highest rates of coronavirus on a per capita basis, and health officials say hospitals are quickly approaching capacity.
Coronavirus commissioner Professor Roni Gamzu said Wednesday in an interview that the present situation demands that the lockdown be intensified. “I want to stress that we have not been seeing full compliance from the public,” he said. “I refer to all sectors. We have documented instances of violations and this requires us to take harsher steps.”
Prof. Gamzu added that “initially, we asked for a lockdown that would take the economy into account, and then we asked for it to be tightened – and from a purely medical standpoint, the current lockdown is a tight one. During the first stage, we wanted to balance the economic needs of the country – the moment there was a request to tighten the lockdown, we had to rely on the system to enforce it. We are now seeing a record high of around 6,700 new cases today, although of course this is not related to the lockdown period, but rather to the period immediately preceding it.”
Gamzu stressed that the lockdown period should be utilized to bring the rate of contagion down, even to a minimal degree, if that is all that can be achieved.
Meanwhile, in an interview to Channel 12, Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch expanded on the government’s intentions regarding tightening the current lockdown.
“It means that the entire education system will remain closed; only essential businesses are allowed to operate; shuls must conduct tefillos outdoors only, in a restricted format; demonstrations may only take place outdoors with protesters not permitted to arrive from other cities in order to participate. This is what is required of us right now.”
Following an hours-long session Tuesday evening, the Coronavirus Cabinet is due to convene again Wednesday to reach final decisions on expanding the reach of the lockdown for the coming weeks. The key disputes revolved around the issues of tefillos on Yom Kippur and public demonstrations outside the prime minister’s residence in Yerushalayim, and at the meeting’s conclusion, it was decided to set up a special task force consisting of experts from the Ministries of Health, Justice and Internal Security.
Gamzu said on Tuesday that if the government were to decide on banning protests, he would support the decision. “Obviously when you take off the mask to shout during a demonstration or when a mask falls or moves aside in the heat of the moment, it is clear to you what is happening,” he said.