Coronavirus czar: Israel in ‘state of emergency’ with new infections

Head of Israel’s coronavirus task force warns that with vaccines on the way, the public is not taking the pandemic seriously.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The head of Israel’s coronavirus task force warned Tuesday that Israel is in a “state of emergency” as infections continue to rise across the country.

Prof. Nachman Ash said that intensive work has been ongoing in order to investigate outbreaks, perform more tests and isolate all those infected or who were exposed to anybody carrying the virus.

“We are in a state of emergency. There is an increase in morbidity along with a public feeling that the coronavirus is gone,” Ash said in a statement released by the Health Ministry. “We will meet to consider what immediate steps should be taken as a recommendation to the Cabinet.”

On Tuesday morning, the Health Ministry reported 1,227 new confirmed infections in the past day, shooting the number of active cases in Israel past the 10,000 mark to 10,513. Of the 507 Israelis hospitalized with the virus, 264 are listed in serious condition, with 99 of them breathing with the help of ventilators.

Israel’s death toll from the virus stands at 2,865 since the beginning of the pandemic. Fifty-four Israelis died of coronavirus in the past week.

Despite the continuing rise in infections, the government on Monday evening authorized more shoppers to enter stores in malls, based on the size of the stores, with large stores limited to one shopper per 15 square meters of floor space.

The entertainment sector remains locked down, with cinemas and theaters closed and indoor events limited to a maximum of 10 people and outdoor events to 20 people.

An attempt last week to restart the tourism sector appears to be in trouble, with infections rising in the southern resort city of Eilat where hotels were open to Israelis who had to show a negative corona test. The rising infection rate put Eilat on the verge of being declared a “red zone” by health officials, Channel 13 reported.

Although vaccines are expected to begin arriving this month from several suppliers, Israel’s health maintenance organizations complained that the Health Ministry has not yet explained how they will be distributed. HMO heads are slamming the government, saying it is “unfortunate to wait until the last minute” for the details of the vaccination program.

Netanyahu: We cannot be complacent

Citing “great success in our management here” of the pandemic after a visit Tuesday afternoon with the National Coronavirus Enforcement Authority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that “this not the end of the coronavirus.

“We cannot enter here an end-of-coronavirus atmosphere, an atmosphere of complacency, of thinking that this is behind us. We are making progress…however, we still need the cooperation of the public alongside our focused enforcement efforts in order to control the disease. Therefore, we will do what is necessary in order to do so.”

The situation is also worsening in the Palestinian territories, with 15 corona deaths and 1,247 new cases in the Palestinian-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria in the past day.

Health officials in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip reported nine new deaths and 815 new infections from about 2,500 tests performed, giving a positivity rate of over 30% and instilling fear that due to the limited number of testing available, thousands more could be infected.

Dr. Fathi Abu Varda, an adviser to the Palestinian Minister of Health, estimated that five percent of Gaza residents are sick with the coronavirus, which would translate to over 100,000 active cases in the Strip.