Coronavirus infections continue to soar: 1,656 Israelis now sick

Infection rate soars by 30% in 24 hours as health ministry uses new phone app to alert those who crossed paths with an infected person.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s Ministry of Health said Tuesday the number of Israelis infected by the coronavirus soared to 1,656, with 418 new cases – an increase of 30 percent in just 24 hours.

Of those hospitalized, 31 are in critical condition and 47 others in moderate condition, a ministry bulletin said.

More than 70,000 people remain in mandatory two-week home isolation, having been in proximity to a virus carrier.

The military said 25 Israel Defense Force soldiers were confirmed to be infected, with another 5,579 troops and IDF employees in mandatory isolation.

Health officials encouraged citizens to download a new smartphone app, Hamagen (The Protector), to help authorities slow the spread of the pandemic.

According to the ministry, the app “cross-checks your location with the tracking map of an infected corona patient’s verified location and updates you in case of overlap.”

The app appears to use the Israeli anti-terror tracking technology that was authorized for use in the health crisis.

When an infected person is discovered, a database of the location history of their smartphone checks to see which other smartphones were close enough to them that those people may have been infected.  For each match, a text message is sent to the other smartphone owners telling them to immediately isolate themselves.

The countrywide shutdown of the education system and most businesses has driven the jobless rate up to 18.6%, Globes reported. Since the beginning of the month 615,834 Israelis have registered for unemployment benefits.

On Monday, three more drive-through coronavirus test centers were opened in Haifa, Beer Sheba and Jerusalem in order to greatly increase the number of daily tests to find those infected and get them quarantined.

The first drive-through site opened in Tel Aviv last week to help speed the testing of those who are showing symptoms.

Patients call a central hotline and receive a code on their phone, allowing them to drive in and sit in their car while a medical technician in protective gear takes a test swab. They then drive home without exposing anybody else.