Israel Nears 3,000 New Cases for First Time in Months

YERUSHALAYIM -
Ichilov medical staff members light Chanukah candles with patients at the coronavirus unit, in  Ichilov Hospital, Tel Aviv, Tuesday. (Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Wednesday morning reported that 2,862 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed on Tuesday, the highest daily rise since Israel began exiting its second nationwide lockdown in October.

The country’s death toll since the start of the pandemic rose overnight and stands at 3,022.

381 patients are listed in serious condition, with 138 connected to ventilators.

With a record 83,277 tests conducted on Tuesday, the positivity rate is at 3.5%.

Last week, after dropping a proposal for a nationwide nighttime curfew, ministers said that if more than 2,500 new virus cases were confirmed daily, or the R, the reproduction number, is found to be over 1.32, a tightening of restrictions will be triggered.

Health Ministry officials said on Tuesday that Israel may have to tighten coronavirus restrictions within the next seven to 10 days to prevent another general lockdown as cases surge nationwide.

Officials voiced their concerns during a meeting with hospital directors as the ministry prepared to begin distributing the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to health workers in several hospitals on Sunday.

Although the hospitals taking part in the pilot have not been named, the country’s major medical centers, such as Sheba near Tel Aviv or Rambam in Haifa, are expected to be first to receive the vaccines.

Earlier Tuesday, Head of Public Health Services at the Health Ministry Dr. Sharon Elrai-Price said that if the government fails to tighten the coronavirus restrictions now, a “much longer” nationwide lockdown will be needed.

“If we wait too long, in the end the price will be heavy for both the economy and health,” she said. “There will be a much longer lockdown, and we will be required to take actions such as closing the education system and imposing traffic restrictions.”