Coronavirus effects starting to pressure Israel’s health system

Israel’s health ministry continues to release a steady stream of information to the public, giving the dates, times and locations of the places that known carriers have visited.

By World Israel News Staff

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Israel rose to 126 Friday, with the Ministry of Health announcing 2,497 health workers, including 1,174 hospital workers, were now in mandatory quarantine.

The ministry also revealed that 949 doctors and 635 nurses were among the medical staff in mandatory quarantine under which any person who may have been exposed to the virus must isolate themselves at home for two weeks.

Israel has roughly 45,000 nurses and 28,000 doctors with an average of 3.1 physicians per thousand people, slightly below the 3.5 average for countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

There are no reports of any staff shortages affecting health care. The quarantined health workers include paramedics and other employees of the Magen David Adom nation-wide ambulance service, geriatric care workers, lab technicians, pharmacists, social workers, physiotherapists, and hundreds of administrative workers and and community staff.

In a major move to reduce the spread of the virus, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday ordered schools and universities to close until at least the end of the Passover holiday when the situation will be assessed in mid-April.

I ask you, citizens of Israel, to change your routine to deal with the coronavirus,” Netanyahu said in a nationally televised broadcast calling on citizens to avoid shaking hands, keep their distance from others and take personal hygiene seriously.

Netanyahu said the drastic steps, similar to those taken in other countries like Italy and France, were needed because the potential for a deaths from the virus are “very high.”

The health ministry continued to release a steady stream of information to the public, giving the dates, times and locations of the places that known carriers had been to – including flight information for those who had been abroad – so that the public could check if they had been near an infected person and put themselves into home quarantine.

There was some good new Friday, as the condition of the bus driver who had caught the virus from a group of infected tourists from Greece,was upgraded from “serious” to “moderate.”

“He is currently breathing on his own,” said Dr. Hagar Mizrahi, director of the Poria Hospital in Tiberias. “He is still receiving supportive treatment including, of course, treatment for the coronavirus.”

The hospital also announced that there was an improvement in the condition of an unnamed 70-year-old female American tourist from Arizona, who was admitted and found to be infected with the virus while her husband tested negative.

Before the school closures, Israel had imposed a series of strict measures to block the spread of the virus, including a mandatory two-week self-quarantine for all Israelis returning from abroad, and limiting gatherings to only 100 people which forced sports teams to play games with no fans.

As infected Israelis returned from countries like Italy and Spain where the virus was spreading rapidly, the government imposed a total ban on foreign visitors to Israel unless they could show they had a home to stay in for the mandatory two-week isolation.