Israeli coronavirus cases soar as drive-thru tests centers open

Infection rate continues to soar as 945 Israelis confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus; new drive-thru test centers open to speed up test rate.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The Ministry of Health reported Sunday that 945 Israelis have been confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus as the infection rate continued to soar.

Of those, almost 300 were hospitalized, 20 of them in serious condition, a ministry statement said.

The Magen David Adom national emergency response service opened a new drive-through testing center over the weekend in Tel Aviv where people in home isolation who had developed coronavirus systems could be tested for the virus.

Those requiring a test would call the emergency ambulance number – the equivalent of 911 in North America – and a code would be sent to their smartphone, allowing them to drive to the center and get swabbed while still behind the wheel and limiting exposure to other people.

“In accordance with the Ministry of Health’s instructions, Magen David Adom is preparing to significantly increase the number of samples taken throughout the country, to thousands of samples a day,” MDA spokesman Zaki Heller said. Three similar test centers are being opened in Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba.

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However, Israeli media reports showed good weather on Israel’s coast over the weekend motivated tens of thousands of Israelis to go outdoors, prompting a stern warning from officials that unless the population cooperated with regulations on movement aimed at reducing the spread of the deadly virus, there would be no choice but to impose more severe restrictions.

“The beautiful weather is not a reason to go outside,” a Ministry of Health statement said. “If the public does not comply with the guidelines, there will be no choice but to institute stricter measures.”

Police were authorized to break up groups of people and issue a 5,000 shekel ($1,400) fine to anybody who refused to disperse or illegally opened their business.

Since last week Israel has been under a government-ordered closure, with residents ordered to stay at home unless their place of work was permitted to open by under ministry of health guidelines. Shopping malls, entertainment venues and other businesses were ordered closed as coronavirus infections started rising exponentially.

Officials said that the majority of Israel’s 9.2 million population are complying with orders to stay at home, with as many as 100,000 or more under mandatory two-week isolation after being exposed to somebody who is infected.

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That number includes 3,030 medical workers of whom 814 are doctors and 893 are nurses, preventing them from giving medical care until their isolation is over with no symptoms. The health ministry reported 42 medical staff tested positive for the virus.

In the town of Efrat in the Judean mountains south of Jerusalem, two teachers at different primary schools were found to be infected, Mayor Oded Revivi said. The discovery forced approximately 800 families into isolation in the town of 10,000. Volunteers and medical workers in protective gear were going door-to-door in order to test those who were showing symptoms.

At least a half dozen members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, are also in home isolation including the transportation, agriculture and interior ministers and the deputy finance minister.